Sources Blame Instructor for SEAL Trainee's Death

He 'held the student underwater until he drowned,' source says
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 14, 2016 9:50 AM CDT
This photo released by the Naval Special Warfare Center shows Seaman James Derek Lovelace.    (Naval Special Warfare Center via AP)

(Newser) – The Navy isn't telling the full story about the death of a SEAL student during a training exercise last week, multiple sources tell NBC and the Virginian-Pilot. The sources say James Derek Lovelace died not during a "drown proofing" drill, but during the even tougher "combat tread" drill, in which instructors grab at the trainees wearing camouflage uniforms in the water—and the instructor with Lovelace went too far. The 21-year-old "passed out first and was sent back in," one source says. "The instructor kept physically and verbally harassing him." Another says: "This instructor took advantage of the student instructor relationship, held the student underwater until he drowned, then blamed it on the student's inability to perform." The sources, who number at least half-a-dozen, are not eyewitnesses, but relatives or other associates of SEAL trainees.

One source says the incident was captured on video. All the sources requested anonymity, fearing that speaking to the press could cause problems for people still on the SEAL course. A Navy spokesman says Naval Special Warfare Command is "fully cooperating" with a Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigation and a separate safety probe. Lovelace's sister says her brother had no underlying health problems. "I don't think we've been told the true story," she says. "My brother shouldn't have died and I feel like it's being covered up." His father, however, said in a Facebook post that a heart problem was the most likely cause and friends should "ignore any media reports or speculation." The preliminary findings of an autopsy suggest Lovelace drowned, though the investigation is ongoing, the Pilot notes. (At least two other SEAL trainees have died in recent months, including a man who jumped from a roof during "Hell Week.")

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