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Tears as Thai cave rescue boys informed of hero diver's death

By Press Association

The 12 boys and their football coach who were trapped in a cave in Thailand have expressed their condolences after learning about the former Navy Seal who died in the rescue operation.

The group had entered the sprawling Tham Luang cave to go exploring after soccer practice on June 23, but monsoon rains soon filled the tight passageways, blocking their escape.

They were found by a pair of British divers nearly 10 days later, huddled on a small, dry shelf just above the water, smiling with relief but visibly skinny.

The complex mission for international and Thai divers to guide the boys and coach through the cave's flooded and tight passageways riveted people worldwide.

Highlighting the dangers, a former Thai navy Seal who volunteered to work on the rescue efforts died on July 6 while replenishing oxygen canisters that were placed along the escape route.

Saman Gunan has since been hailed as a hero around the world.

The group were told about his sacrifice on Saturday when doctors determined they were strong enough to process the news. Pictures show them gathering around a picture of the diver, as they continue to be monitored in hospital.

"All cried and expressed their condolences by writing messages on a drawing of Lieutenant Commander Saman and observed one minute of silence for him," said Jedsada Chokdamrongsuk, permanent secretary at the health ministry.

"They also thanked him and promised to be good boys," the health ministry said.

The group appeared in a video message which was shown in Saturday's news conference, with them still wearing surgical masks, a safeguard against infection since the last of them was pulled from a cave on Tuesday after being trapped for almost three weeks.

Public Health Minister Dr Piyasakol Sakolsattayatorn said all 13 are set to leave hospital on Thursday.

Doctors say they will still need to be closely monitored for physical and psychological effects of their ordeal.

"All of the 13 people, their physical bodies are strong, and fit.

"Regarding infections, through the medical evaluations in the first days there may be some of them that had minor pneumonia, but now all is cleared, no fever," Dr Piyasakol said.

Several were also reported earlier to be recovering from minor lung and middle ear infections.

Most of the boys, who were shown in their hospital beds, looked relaxed, and began their brief statements with a "wai", the traditional Thai greeting of hands raised to chest level with palms together.

A few also gave the two-finger victory sign and raised their right fists. One of the 14-year-olds, Ekarat Wongsukchan, whose nickname is Biw, playfully raised his two arms in a boxer's victory stance as laughter was heard in the background.

"Hello, my name is Biw, I am fine. I want to say thanks to everyone that worried," he said. All 13 offered thanks for the support they've been given.

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