Duangpetch Promthep, the captain of the Thai boys soccer team that endured a harrowing three-week experience in a flooded cave in 2018 before they were rescued, has died in England. He was 17.
His death was confirmed on Facebook on Wednesday by the Zico Foundation, a Thai nonprofit group that had helped him secure a scholarship to a high school in England. No cause of death was given.
Known to his friends as Dom, the teenager was one of 12 boys who ventured into Tham Luang Cave, a warren of complex underground passages in Chiang Rai Province, along with their coach after soccer practice. After heavy rain filled the cave entrance, the boys and their coach moved deeper into its recesses to avoid drowning, leaving them trapped.
Their extraordinary escape involved Thai Navy Seals, expert cave divers from around the world and workers from several government agencies using water pumps, guide ropes and air tanks to bring them back along a watery, two-mile route.
The rescue was hailed as a miraculous feat of human collaboration. Found alive more than a week after they went missing, the team’s path to survival became a closely watched global drama.
An avid soccer player, Dom announced on Instagram in August that he had won a scholarship to attend the Brooke House College Football Academy in Leicestershire in England, about 75 miles northwest of England, a training ground for young boys with hopes of becoming professional players.
“Today my dream has come true,” he said at the time. The school did not immediately return a request for comment.
A spokesman for the Leicestershire police said that officers were called to a 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.
Dom’s former teammates shared their condolences online on Wednesday, mourning a promising future cut short and pointing to the hardships they had survived together.
Describing their friend as a brother who motivated them to pursue their ambitions in the sport, they said he aspired to play for Thailand’s national team.
“When we met last time before you left for England, I still jokingly said to you that I have to get your autograph when you come back,” said Prachak Sutham, who was a member of the team, known as the Wild Boars, that was rescued from the cave. “Rest in peace my friend, there will always be 13 of us.”
“You are one of the persons who pushes me and makes me want to develop myself to your level,” said another teammate, Titan Chanin Viboonrungruang. “If next life is real, I wish we will play football together as a team again.”