The Thai teenager who was rescued from a flooded cave in the country died Tuesday.
Duangphet “Dom” Promthep was one of 13 individuals rescued from the Tham Luang Cave in Chiang Rai Province, Thailand, in July 2018. The story of the twelve players and their assistant coach drew international headlines at the time. Promthep was living in England since last year, having won a scholarship to play soccer at Brooke House College Football Academy in Leicestershire, England.
“We are waiting for his body to return,” Promthep’s mother Thanaporn said at a virtual news conference in the northern Thailand town of Mae Sai, via The New York Times.
Leicestershire Police said via NYT that they had been called to the school on Sunday afternoon, and that a 17 year-old boy had died in a hospital. Kiatisuk Senamuang, the founder of the foundation which helped secure Promthep’s scholarship, said Wednesday that a teacher found Promthep unconscious in his dorm room. A spokesperson for East Midlands Ambulance Service added to the BBC that he had been taken to Kettering General Hospital. Police said his death was not being treated as suspicious. The BBC noted that reports in Thailand have claimed that he had suffered a head injury.
Tributes poured in from friends and community members.
Brooke House College Football Academy Principal Ian Smith said that the school was “deeply saddened and shaken” by the young footballer’s death. “We unite in grief with all of Dom’s family, friends, former teammates and those involved in all parts of his life, as well as everyone affected in any way by this loss in Thailand and throughout the college’s global family,” he said in a statement, via the BBC.
“When we met last time before you left for England, I still jokingly said to you that I have to get your autograph when you come back,” mourned Prachak Sutham, one of Promthep’s teammates from the “Wild Boars” junior soccer team who was also rescued from the cave. “Rest in peace my friend, there will always be 13 of us.”
“You are one of the persons who pushes me and makes me want to develop myself to your level,” Chanin Viboonrungruang, another teammate, added. “If next life is real, I wish we will play football together as a team again.”
“The soul of Dom Duangphet Promthep has gone to a better world,” Supatpong Methigo, a Buddhist monk and schoolteacher who taught Promthep when he lived in Thailand, wrote on Facebook. “I hope that the dharma who has taught you will accompany you everywhere. And in my next life, I would like you to be my disciple again.”
Promthep was 13 years old, and captain of the Wild Boars, when he and his teammates were rescued from Tham Luang Cave. The team and one assistant coach went to explore the cave on June 23, 2018, but monsoon rainfalls filled the cave entrance and forced them deeper into the cave to avoid drowning. Thai Navy SEALs were originally dispatched to attempt a rescue, followed by British cave rescue divers, a U.S. Air Force rescue squadron, Australian federal police divers, and Chinese divers.
The boys were discovered on July 2, on a rock shelf some 2.5 miles from the mouth of the cave. All 12 players and the coach were rescued by July 10. However, one of the rescuers, Saman Kunan, died during the operation. Another member of the operation, Thai Navy SEAL Beirut Pakbara, died in 2019 of a blood infection he sustained during the rescue.
Promthep was awarded a scholarship to Brooke House College Football Academy in August. “Today my dream has come true,” he said on Instagram at the time, via NYT. “I promise I will focus and do my best,” he said.
Duangphet “Dom” Promthep was 17.