Narongsak Osottanakorn, the Thai official who oversaw the dramatic cave rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach in 2018, has died at the age of 58.
Osottanakorn’s death: Osottanakorn died at around 5:40 p.m. local time on Wednesday at Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok after battling cancer for five years. His death comes four months after the Wild Boars’ soccer team captain, Duangphet Phromthep, 18, died in Britain due to a head injury.
Osottanakorn is survived by his wife and two daughters.
About the official: Osottanakorn, who was born in 1965, was a veteran bureaucrat who served in several public service roles, including as an inspector at the Ministry of Interior and as the governor of Chiang Rai province in 2017, where the successful cave rescue mission took place. At the time of his death, he had been serving as governor of Pathum Thani province since 2021.
Osottanakorn was reportedly last seen in public a week ago at his daughter’s wedding, where he showed up in a wheelchair.
His funeral is being held at a temple in Bangkok, where some of the boys from the Wild Boars soccer team will reportedly participate in a Buddhist ritual in his honor.
About the cave rescue: The official was popularly known as the “Wild Boar Governor” for his instrumental role in the rescue mission of the Wild Boars’ soccer team.
The soccer team and their coach were trapped in Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai province due to an unexpected rainstorm on June 23, 2018.
The event, which made international headlines, prompted thousands of volunteers to offer their assistance to Thai forces, including acclaimed British cave divers John Volanthen and Richard Stanton. The successful mission saw all 13 individuals alive and rescued from the cave between July 8 and 10 in 2018.
The rescue has since inspired several movies, including “The Cave” (2019), “The Rescue” (2021), “Thirteen Lives” (2022) and a Netflix docuseries titled “Thai Cave Rescue” (2022).
“The mission (was conducted without regard) for race or nationality, and it united humanity as a whole,” Osottanakorn previously said in 2018 in New York, where he received a prestigious award from Asia Society for his exceptional leadership.
“With over 10,000 people involved, even if one function was missing, we would not have been able to do it,” he added. “I wish the entire incident would inspire everyone to start living for others. This small change could be a game changer for the world.”