Navy SEAL Trainee Dies: Seaman James Derek Lovelace Dies During Drown-Proofing Exercise

A United States Navy SEAL trainee died Friday during his first week of training in Coronado, California. It is believed that he died during the “drown-proofing” exercise.

Seaman James Derek Lovelace, 21, was involved in Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training – often known as BUD/S. The Navy SEAL training is thought of as one of the most challenging and intense training regimens in the world.

“Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, or BUD/S, is designed to find and develop men of the strongest character who give everything they have to accomplish their mission and support the men on their team,” the Navy SEAL website explains.

Seaman Lovelace was in the first week of training, noted by the Navy SEAL website, as part of the first phase, which they call the basic conditioning phase.

According to the Navy SEAL site, the first phase “is seven weeks long and develops the class in physical training, water competency and mental tenacity while continuing to build teamwork.”

During the first three weeks of the basic conditioning phase, the amount of physical activity is gradually increased each week. By the fourth week, a Navy SEAL trainee becomes part of the infamous “hell week.” Hell week is a five-day stretch where the trainee sleeps four hours total, but takes part in intense physical training for 20 hours a day.

Seaman James Derek Lovelace did not make it to hell week. Still, he got where he was by graduating from a Navy boot camp in Great Lakes, Illinois, according to ABC News.

In order to finish the Navy boot camp on his way to being accepted into SEAL training, Seaman Lovelace would have had to successfully complete a 1,000-yard swim in under 20 minutes; 70 push-ups, 10 pull-ups, and 60 curl-ups each within a two-minute allotted time; and a four-mile run, wearing his entire uniform, in under 31 minutes.

A Navy SEAL trainee is put through the “most mentally challenging and physically demanding training in the world,” according to the Navy SEAL website.

Although the SEAL trainee died on Friday, the Navy did not release facts about his death until Tuesday, when they spoke to NBC News and The Virginian-Pilot.

According to what a Navy spokesperson told the publications, Seaman Lovelace was near the end of his first week of SEAL training in Coronado, California. His final exercise was one called “drown-proofing.”

In the drown-proofing exercise, a prospective Navy SEAL is required to “tread water and swim in a pool while wearing diving masks and a camouflage utility uniform,” Trevor Davids, a Navy spokesman, told the publication.

Navy SEALs Training

It became apparent to observers that Seaman Lovelace was starting to have difficulty in the water, so they dove in and pulled him out.

“Safety observers identified Lovelace as having difficulty and withdrew him from the exercise,” Davids said. “He was aided to the edge of the pool by instructors where he then lost consciousness. Resuscitation efforts and first aid at the scene were unsuccessful. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital.”

Captain Jay Hennessey, the commanding officer responsible for overseeing Navy SEAL training, offered his condolences to the family and friends of the trainee, reported CNN.

“Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family and friends of SN Lovelace. Though Derek was very new to our community, he selflessly answered his nation’s call to defend freedom and protect this country. He will be sorely missed. We share in his family’s grief from this great loss.”

Seaman Lovelace was new to the Navy, but had been successful throughout his months with the military branch. He graduated basic training on January 28, 2016, and held awards and decorations including the National Defense Ribbon and Sharpshooter Pistol Qualification.

“I don’t know what to say. He was wonderful,” Jan Pugh, the grandmother of the trainee, told The Virginian-Pilot. “It was a dream he was chasing out there. He was determined to become a SEAL. We are all just in shock.”

Final arrangements are still being made to honor Seaman Lovelace, and an investigation into his death has been launched.

[Photo by Naval Special Warfare Center via AP Images]