Duangpetch Promthep was rescued from Thai cave in 2018. Five years later, he’s made the news for the saddest of reasons


It’s hard to forget that Thai rescue of 2018 after 12 boys and their football team coach was trapped in a cave for over 15 days. Now, five years later, one of the boys involved in that famous rescue operation has sadly passed away.

Duangpetch Promthep, 17, died in Britain’s Leicestershire on Tuesday after he reportedly suffered a head injury. His passing has evoked grief from all corners — his family, friends, his school — with even British Ambassador to Thailand Mark Gooding passing on “his condolences to all his friends and family”.

But, how did Dom, as he was known to friends, die? What was he doing in Britain at the time of his death? We give you the answers.

Dom’s move to Britain

Promthep, who acquired fame as one of the boys who was rescued from a cave in the northern Thai province of Chiang Rai, moved to UK late last year after he enrolled at Brooke House College Football Academy in Leicestershire on a scholarship.

A prior student of Vachiralai Bee School in Chiang Mai, Dom was a diehard football fan and had been a member of a youth team in Chiang Mai.

He had been thrilled about his move and had also posted about the same on Instagram, writing, “Today my dream has come true.” However, six months on, he has passed away.

The reason behind his death is yet unknown. As of now, all that is known is that he was found unconscious in his dorm on Sunday. A spokesperson for the Leicestershire police said that officers were called to the boarding school on Sunday afternoon and that a 17-year-old student had been taken to the hospital and had since died. The death, they said in a statement, was not being treated as suspicious.

Kiatisuk Senamuang, the founder of the Zico Foundation that was funding Dom’s scholarship, confirmed the same and mourned the loss of the teen. He was quoted as telling The Guardian, “Dom was very happy with playing football there. Dom was very fast, very smart, full of happiness.”

Ian Smith, the principal at Brooke House college also condoled the demise of Dom, saying, “This event has left our college community deeply saddened and shaken. 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.

“The college is liaising with statutory authorities and the Royal Thai embassy in London, and dedicating all resources to assist our student body, as they as young people process Dom’s passing. Beyond that, we are unable to comment further at this time and would ask for privacy and compassion as we continue to support the students in our care at this time, drawing on the kindness and assistance of the Market Harborough community.”

Thanaporn Promthep, mother of Duangpetch, nicknamed “Dom”, shared the news of his demise with the Wat Doi Wao temple in his home town in Chiang Rai. File image/AFP

Dom’s friends in mourning

The news of Dom’s passing has left his friends, many of them who were with him in the cave in 2018, grief-stricken. Prachak Sutham, a friend, said, “You told me to wait and see you play for the national team, I always believe that you would do it. When we met the last time before you left for England, I even jokingly told you that when you come back, I would have to ask for your autograph.

“Sleep well, my dear friend. We will always have 13 of us together.”

Another of the boys, Titan Chanin Viboonrungruang, wrote: “Brother, you told me that we would be achieving our football dream… if the next world is real, I want us to play football together again, my brother Dom.”

A member of the “Wild Boars” Thai youth football team being moved on a stretcher during a rescue operation inside the Tham Luang cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Mae Sai district. File image/AFP

That unforgettable rescue in 2018

On 23 June 2018, 12 young boys — aged between 11 and 16 — all part of the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach — Ekapol Chantawong — made their way to the Tham Luang caves for a day trip after their football training. In those days, it was a well-known local landmark.

They explored the underground tunnels for about an hour, before deciding to turn back. But by this time the cave had become partially flooded and their exit was blocked. Trying to avoid the rising waters, the Wild Boars eventually found themselves marooned on a small rocky shelf about 4 km from the cave entrance.

Despite their dire circumstances, the group stayed calm and hoped and prayed for help.

Outside the cave, a full-blown rescue operation was quickly unfolding. Authorities called in the elite Thai Navy Seals, the national police, and other rescue teams. Local volunteers also pitched in. Officials tried everything to get the boys out — even trying to dril into the mountainside, desperate to find cracks into the cave system which they could squeeze into, and use drones with thermal sensors to try to locate the boys.

It was only on 2 July that the Thai Navy SEAL team found the missing group in a chamber of the cave. And that’s when British divers, John Volanthen and Rick Stanton, stepped in. And after untiring efforts and braving the worst weather conditions, they were able to rescue all 13 members who were trapped inside — the last of the trapped came out of the cave on 10 July to cheers and applause from those who had been keeping vigil there.

The rescue captured the attention of the world and has since inspired movies, documentaries and books. There was the six-part Netflix docu-series and Ron Howard’s Thirteen Lives.

With inputs from agencies

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Duangpetch Promthep was rescued from Thai cave in 2018. Five years later, he’s made the news for the saddest of reasons
Duangpetch Promthep was rescued from Thai cave in 2018. Five years later, he’s made the news for the saddest of reasons
ASE News
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