Rescuer says conditions good for extraction

Diver dies after delivering oxygen for trapped soccer team

Diver dies after delivering oxygen for trapped soccer team

In his letter, the 25-year-old coach Ekkapol Chantawong, also known as Ake, said: "Dear all kids' parents, now all of them are fine, the rescue team is treating us well".

A former Thai navy SEAL has died during the rescue effort while diving in flooded passageways to deliver oxygen supplies. With more rains on the way, rescuers are in a race against time to find a way to free the boys before the water levels rise and flood the chamber they have been sheltering in.

His death marks the first fatality in the massive operation to rescue the group and underscores just how risky the voyage is going in and out of the cave, even for those who have experience. It's going to be really hard for them. He said the earliest they might come out could be at about 9pm.

Another reads: "Tell Coach Ake: Don't think too much. Please tell my teacher I love her. Love you, mum".

Some urged forgiveness for the boys.

Mik: Don't worry about me, I miss everyone, grandpa, uncle/auntie, mum dad and brother/sister, love everyone.

There has been little official criticism of the boys' actions.

The entrance is about 6 miles away, where the divers are going in.

The football coach's message is the first time he has spoken publicly after facing criticism for agreeing to take the young boys into the cave during the monsoon season. "When we were confident, then we started". "This group went in further than allowed".

In a scrawled note released by the navy on Saturday, the coach apologized to the boys' parents. "I promise to take the very best care of the kids", he said in a note given to a diver on Friday and published on the Thai Navy SEAL Facebook page on Saturday.

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"On behalf of the worldwide football community, I would like to join you in expressing my deepest sympathies and support to the families of the players and coach, as well as my solidarity with the people of Thailand at this time of great concern".

"We estimate that [they] are 600 metres down, but we don't know the [exact] target", he said.

Despite the unfortunate death, the volunteers have vowed to continue providing the boys with oxygen as the planned extraction, which involves the boys swimming out of the cave with divers, could still take months.

Osottanakorn also said that rescue teams have been practising to retrieve the boys for 3-4 days, adding that 13 foreign divers, five Thai divers, five navy SEALS are taking part in the operation. Officials have been attempting to drain the cave so the boys do not have to dive out of the cave in treacherous conditions and have succeeded in reducing water levels in the first section of the cave to the point that people can wade in and out.

Katadzic has not dived the final kilometer to where the boys are stranded on a muddy bank.

Many fans on social media said the boys deserved the World Cup trophy for the way they have handled their ordeal.

A team on the hill above is frantically trying to block holes and divert streams that channel water into the cave before the weather turns.

Last week, Damrong Hanpakdeeniyom, the head of the forest park where the cave complex is located, said visitors were usually barred from venturing in more than about 700m (2,300ft).

Meanwhile the Croatian Football Federation said it was "awed" by the team's calm under pressure.

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