Tributes Flow For Hero Thai Navy Diver

"You are the hero in my heart. You always were and always will be."

Tributes are flowing for former Navy diver Saman Gunan, the tragic sole casualty of the incredible mission to rescue the Wild Boars soccer team from the Tham Luang cave in Thailand.

"You are the hero in my heart,” his wife told the BBC after the rescue mission ended.

It was sheer global jubilation on Tuesday night as all 12 boys, their coach, doctors and divers all finally surfaced from the cave, 17 days after the team disappeared. Many feared it would be a more grim and less joyous outcome for the team stuck kilometres deep in the cave amid rising waters and monsoonal rain, with some praising the rescue mission as a miracle.

But while all the boys and their coach emerged alive and relatively well from underground, Gunan was not so lucky.

The Thai man died in the cave on June 6, with authorities saying his death was due to a lack of oxygen. He was later named as a former Navy diver, who rejoined his team to assist in the rescue mission for the missing soccer team.

Gunan has been honoured by his team and others, with artists paying tribute to the deceased hero. An image posted on the Thai Navy Seal Facebook page called him "the martyr of the cave".

Following the successful rescue mission, his wife Waleeporn spoke to the BBC.

"Saman once said, 'we never knew when we would die. We can't control that so we need to cherish every day'," she said.

“It’s like I’ve died, but I’m still alive. But I use pride to repress my sadness."

Waleeporn said Saman "loved helping others, doing charity work and getting things done."

"I want to tell you honey, you are the hero in my heart. You always were and always will be."

His father Wichai said he was proud of his son.

"I am very proud but i am very sad too because I lost my beloved son. May you rest in peace... daddy loves you," he told the BBC.

Also being hailed as heroes are the dive crews and medical staff involved in the rescue. Among them was Australian doctor Richard Harris, who was said to have personally given the final go-ahead for each boy leaving the cave.