WASHINGTON – A Navy SEAL instructor has been temporarily removed from his training duties after the death of a Sailor during a swimming pool training exercise, the Washington Post reports.
Seaman James Derek Lovelace, 21, died May 6 during an introductory pool exercise during his first week at basic underwater demolition/SEAL training, aka BUD/S.
The training exercise Lovelace was attempting is part of what’s called “drown proofing,” where participants don a camouflage utility uniform and diving masks and then have to tread water and swim.
Class instructors reportedly noticed he was having issues and pulled him from the pool. But Lovelace couldn’t be revived at the scene at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado and he was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
A preliminary autopsy report by the San Diego coroner’s office said he drowned.
The incident is under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
Navy Cmdr. Jason Salata, a spokesman for Naval Special Warfare Command, told the Washington Post that Naval Special Warfare, commanded by Rear Adm. Brian Losey, “is fully cooperating with the NCIS investigation” and a separate Navy safety investigation into the fatality.
“It would be premature to discuss any details until those investigations are complete,” Salata said. “As the investigation progresses and more details are reviewed, his commander will reassess his status.”
The instructor has not been named, but is an enlisted petty officer first class who joined the Navy in 2008 and has served in SEAL units based in both Coronado and Little Creek, Va. He has deployed to Afghanistan at least twice, and been decorated with a Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal with “V” device for valor. He is not currently facing any accusations from commanders of wrongdoing.