Wife of ex-Navy Seal who died tells boys not to blame themselves

Navy Seals commander sends message to football team, while widow of Thai navy diver absolves them of responsibility for her husband's death

The wife of a former Thai navy diver who died working to rescue a young football team trapped in a flooded cave urged the boys not to blame themselves for his death.

During the rescue, some Thais said on social media that the team had been reckless in entering the cave during the rainy season.

But Madam Valeepoan absolved them of responsibility.

"I want to tell the boys, please don't blame yourselves," she said.

Meanwhile, the head of a Thai Navy Seal diving team that helped lead 12 boys and their football coach through a flooded cave complex to safety urged the boys yesterday to "be a force for good" as the dramatic operation wound to a close.

Make the most of your lives. Be good people, be a force for good for your country.Rear Admiral Apakorn Yuukongkaew, commander of Thailand’s Navy Seals unit

The first footage of the boys, aged 11 to 16, convalescing in hospital in the northern city of Chiang Rai emerged on Wednesday, with some, wearing face masks and hospital gowns, giving hand salutes for the camera.

Health officials said the boys would spend at least a week in hospital and around 30 days recovering at home following more than two weeks trapped inside the flooded Tham Luang cave complex.

Thirteen foreign divers and five Thai Navy Seals guided the boys and their coach out in a complicated three-day operation that ended on Tuesday.

"Make the most of your lives. Be good people, be a force for good for your country," Rear Admiral Apakorn Yuukongkaew, commander of Thailand's Navy Seals unit, said in a message to the boys before flying out of Chiang Rai.

"Hooyah!" Rear Adm Apakorn shouted before boarding his flight, using a morale-building navy term.

Footage released by the Seals showed parts of the rescue operation that captivated the world.

The boys were held close to divers and remained motionless for parts of the journey where they had to dive. They were then carried on stretchers through dry parts to the cave's entrance.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said on Wednesday the operation was nothing short of a miracle.

Families of the 12 boys have been allowed to visit them. Some have been able to see the boys through a glass panel, others have been allowed closer, but had to wear protective suits and stand two metres away.

The Tham Luang cave complex will remain closed to the public for at least six months, said Mr Chongklai Worapongsathorn, deputy director-general of Thailand's Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation. - REUTERS