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Football captain who survived Thai cave rescue dies at 17

By Jitendra JOSHI / AFP Published Feb 16, 2023 9:00 am

One of 12 boys dramatically rescued from a Thai cave in 2018 has died in Britain while studying on a football scholarship, authorities said on Wednesday, Feb. 15.

Duangpetch Promthep, 17, who was captain of the football team that was stranded in floodwaters in the northern Thailand cave, died Tuesday, Feb. 14 at a hospital in England, Brooke House College confirmed.

Ian Smith, the principal at the central English boarding school where he had been studying, said it had been left "devastated" and the college community "deeply saddened and shaken" by his passing.

"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," he added.

The cause of death has not been revealed but Leicestershire police said it was "not being treated as suspicious."

Officers were called to the school on Sunday, Feb. 12 over concerns for the welfare of a pupil, who was subsequently taken to hospital and later died, according to the force.

It did not name Duangpetch, in line with UK policing protocols.

A coroner will formally identify him and determine the cause of death.

Thailand's football legend Kiatisuk "Zico" Senamuang, whose charity helped Duangpetch secure a three-year scholarship in Britain, said a teacher had found him unconscious in his room at the school.

"A hospital treated him since Sunday and informed the Thai embassy yesterday that his heartbeat was slow and he had no response," Kiatisuk told an online press conference, speaking from Vietnam. 

"His voice is still in my ears. He had his dreams. He wanted to be a professional footballer, he wanted to be national footballer," added a tearful Kiatisuk.

Duangpetch's mother, Thanaporn Duangthep, and his father briefly joined the press conference, after a Thai reporter in the northern city of Chiang Rai was able to telephone them.

"We want to bring his body home, our family does not have much (money).... He is a pillar of the family," his mother said.

Smith said Brooke House College was liaising with the authorities and the Thai Embassy in London, and "dedicating all resources to assist our student body, as... young people process Dom's passing."

The nail-biting 18-day rescue effort of the Wild Boars football team in June 2018 made headlines across the globe and has since inspired movies, documentaries, and books.

Duangpetch was awarded the football scholarship to study at Brooke House College last year, and was the Zico Foundation's first such student sent overseas.

"Today my dream came true," he wrote on Instagram in August. "I will focus and do my best."

Mark Gooding, Britain's ambassador in Bangkok, tweeted his condolences to Duangpetch's family. (AFP)