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Thai Navy SEAL dies from infection he contracted during cave rescue

Posted at 9:48 AM, Dec 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-29 11:48:01-05

(CNN) -- A Thai Navy SEAL has died from an infection he contracted during the daring rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in Thailand last year.

The Thai Royal Navy confirmed the death of Petty Officer Beirut Pakbara in a statement Friday.

"Mourning Sergeant Major Beirut Pakbara, the hero of the cave who passed away. The Royal Thai Navy would like to express our deepest condolences to Beirut's family," the statement read.

Beirut contracted a blood infection during the rescue operation at Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand. He had been seeking medical treatment over the past year, but his condition worsened after the infection got into his bloodstream, according to Thai Royal Navy.

Twelve members of the Wild Boars youth soccer team and their coach entered the sprawling Tham Luang cave network on June 23 last year and were trapped when a downpour flooded the cave complex.

They were unable to navigate out of narrow passages, and the rising water forced them to take shelter on a rocky ledge. The boys were found two weeks later in early July, but jubilation quickly gave way to the realization that their rescue would be extremely dangerous.

The world watched as a team of Thai Navy SEALs and international cave-diving experts led the mission to retrieve them, eventually evacuating the boys one by one.

During the efforts, Saman Kunan, also a former Thai Navy SEAL, died as he returned from delivering oxygen tanks. An official said at the time he ran out of air while underwater.

The last of the group, the coach, successfully exited July 10.