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The leader of the US team that helped save 12 children and his football coach from a flooded cave in Thailand says it was a once-in-a-lifetime rescue. (July 11)
AP

In this photo published by the Ministry of Health of Thailand and the Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital, some of the members of the rescued football team bow their heads respectfully in front of a sketch of the Thai Navy SEAL diver who died while trying to rescue them, on Sunday, July 15, 2018, in a hospital in Chiang Rai, north of Thailand. The 12 children and their soccer coach rescued after being trapped in a flooded cave in northern Thailand are recovering well and are eager to eat their favorite comfort foods after being discharged from a hospital next week. (Ministry of Health of Thailand and Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital via AP) ORG XMIT: BKWS301 (Photo: AP)

The 12 young footballers rescued from a cave in northern Thailand paid tribute on Sunday to ancient SEAL marine who lost his life in the operation to save them.

The children, rescued a week ago after more than two weeks trapped in the partially flooded cave, remain in quarantine at a hospital in Chiang Rai. They were not informed about the death of SEAL Saman Kunan until Saturday.

"Everyone cried and expressed their condolences when writing messages about a drawing of Lieutenant Commander Saman," said Jedsada Chokdamrongsuk, Thailand's public health secretary.

The men observed a short time in honor of Samandijo Jedsada

"They also thanked him and promised to be good boys," he said.

More: Children rescued from the cave to be discharged from the hospital on Thursday

More: & # 39; 17 days that will be remembered forever & # 39 ;: Riveting cave rescue

Saman's wife, other family members and friends paid their respects to the SEAL at a final religious ceremony on Sunday. Thailand's royal family sponsored the service, and Saman's ashes were to float on the Mekong River, the Bangkok Post reported.

Saman, 38, had retired from the SEALs of the Thai navy and was working as an airport security officer when he volunteered for the rescue operation. The triathlete died during a dive on July 6 and was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.

The king of Thailand posthumously promoted Saman to lieutenant commander of sub-officer after his death.

"Sam now takes care of everyone in heaven, I'm going to follow in his footsteps here," his tearful wife said at the memorial service. "We stay together and we are in the hearts of others forever."

The 12 children aged 12-17 and their 25-year-old trainer had gone exploring after a practice on June 23, but heavy rains flooded the cave and trapped them more than 2.5 miles from the entrance. They were found nine days later, and the complex rescue required several days to plan and more than 100 volunteers to complete.

The three-day international rescue operation was successful, and the children are in quarantine while recovering from minor injuries and regaining their strength. They are scheduled to be discharged from the hospital on Thursday.

More than a dozen countries provided badistance for the rescue operation. The national tourism office released a short video thanking the world community.

"Without national borders, working in unity, the world is one," says the narrator in English. "Thank you".

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