Navy SEAL Student Dies in 'Legendarily Difficult' Course
James Derek Lovelace was attempting to do an exercise called 'drown proofing'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 11, 2016 8:21 AM CDT
This undated photo released by the Naval Special Warfare Center shows Seaman James Derek Lovelace.   (Naval Special Warfare Center via AP)

(Newser) – An underwater training course for Navy SEALs that the Washington Post calls "legendarily difficult" proved fatal Friday for one student at a California naval station. James Derek Lovelace, 21, who had just joined the Navy six months ago and completed basic training in January, was wrapping up the last day of his first week of training in basic underwater demolition/SEAL training, aka BUD/S, when class instructors noticed he was having issues and took him out of the pool, the Virginian-Pilot reports. He lost consciousness and couldn't be revived at the scene at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado; he was pronounced dead at a local hospital. 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, Navy spokesman Lt. Trevor Davids explains. He adds that the cause of Lovelace's death is still being investigated, per the AP.

As the recruits advance in this training exercise, it becomes increasingly tougher, with SEALs practicing their escape from hypothetical underwater emergencies, all while having their hands and feet restrained, by learning the basics of breath control and body positioning, per Business Insider. "It's a physiological test to see if a guy can do exercises in the water," notes an official said by the Pilot to be familiar with what happened. Typically, if a student is having trouble during the exercise, instructors will move the student to a different part of the pool and bring in more eyes to "scale up the student-instructor ratio," Davids tells the Navy Times. The Pilot says the Navy didn't announce Lovelace's death until it was contacted by the Pilot and NBC News, which worked on the story with the paper. It's the second recent tragedy for Lovelace's family: His mom, Katie, died last year at the age of 44. (A Navy SEAL recently killed by ISIS had an infamous grandfather.)