Duangphet Phromthep, Captain of Thai Soccer Team Known for 2018 Cave Rescue, Dies at 17

The tragedy gained international headlines and was the subject of Ron Howard’s “Thirteen Lives” in 2022

Duangpetch Promthep
Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters

Duangphet Phromthep, the captain of the Thai boys soccer team known for the high-profile Tham Luang Nang Non cave rescue in 2018, has died in the U.K., British and Thai officials announced. He was 17 years old.

Phromthep, who was most recently one of the subject of Ron Howard’s “Thirteen Lives” in 2022, was enrolled in a soccer academy in Leicestershire, England. He died after being sent to the hospital on Sunday, Leicestershire Police told CNN in a statement. The circumstances surrounding his death remain unclear, but the northern regional branch of the Thai government’s public relations team said on Facebook that the boy died due to an accident.

“The atmosphere at his house in Chiang Rai province was full of sorrow,” PR Thailand’s statement said. 

Zico Foundation, a Thai nonprofit organization which helped Phromthep study in the U.K. through a soccer scholarship, wrote on Facebook Wednesday: “Zico Foundation would like to express our sorrow for the pass of Dom Duangpet Phromthep, a scholarship student from Zico foundation.”

Phromthep was enrolled at The Brooke House College Football Academy.

Phromthep was the captain of the Wild Boars soccer team which was rescued after being trapped in a flooded cave in a northern Thai province for two weeks in the summer of 2018. The international rescue effort captured worldwide attention, as divers traveled through fast-moving shallow water to take the 12 boys and their coach to safety.

The boys were split into groups of four and given wetsuits, full face mask breathing apparatus and air bottles. Each of the boys was taken out by two divers, who carried their oxygen tanks and helped them navigate through the tunnels. Each rescue took several hours, and they were all soon transported to a nearby hospital for recuperation.

Phromthep, who also went by Dom, left the cave in the second group of boys, more than two weeks after first getting trapped. In the nearly three weeks that he was underground, Phromthep became one of three boys to have a passing birthday; he turned 13.

In his first message to his parents, he told them not to forget. “I’m fine, but the weather is quite cold. But don’t worry,” he said. “Don’t forget my birthday.”

Prajak Sutham, one of the Thai cave survivors, wrote on Facebook of Phromthep’s passing: “We have been through together a lot, good and bad times. We had went through life and death situations together, when you told me to wait and see the time you became a national player. I always believed that you could do it. Last time we met before you left to UK, I jokingly told you that, when you’re back I would ask for your signature. Rest in Peace Bro, we always have each other, the 13 of us.”

The rescue mission was dramatized in both the Netflix limited series “Thai Cave Rescue” and Ron Howard’s film “Thirteen Lives.” The latter film starred Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell, Joel Edgerton and Tom Bateman and is dedicated to Saman Kunan, the Thai Navy Seal who died during the rescue operation, and Beirut Pakbara, a Thai Navy Seal who died from a blood infection after the rescue.