Investigation Underway as 21-Year-Old Dies During Navy SEAL Training

By Andrew Simontacchi
Andrew Simontacchi
Andrew Simontacchi
May 11, 2016 Updated: May 11, 2016

He was training to become one of the nation’s elite. James Derek Lovelace. a 21-year-old from Crestview, Fla., died May 6 during a pool exercise that was part of his special combat training, according to Navy officials.

Lovelace was pulled from the underwater exercise unconscious by emergency responders, who were unsuccessful in their revival attempts. He was taken to a nearby civilian hospital where he was pronounced deceased.

In a written statement, the Navy said: “Resuscitation efforts and first aid at the scene were unsuccessful. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital.”

His team was engaged in the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training exercise in San Diego, Calif., otherwise known as the famously difficult BUD/S class, when he began to show signs he was struggling. 

“In the training pool during the evolution, safety observers saw he was having difficulty,” according to the NavyTimes, citing Navy spokesman Lt. Trevor Davids.

It was Lovelace’s first week of in-pool exercises; he was dressed in camouflage and wearing special diving equipment.

“The exercise is performed during the first week of training to assess and develop students’ competency, confidence, and safety in the water. During the exercise students tread water and swim in a pool while wearing diving masks and a camouflage utility uniform,” according to the Navy’s statement.

The Naval Special Warfare command has launched an investigation into Lovelace’s death. Officials say it is too early to speculate whether he suffered from any conditions or possibly hadn’t been feeling well.

According to an online obituary, Lovelace was born in Germany in 1994, and graduated basic training in January. He is survived by his father and two sisters; his mother died in June 2015.

Although this is not Lovelace’s class, this YouTube video shows the type of exercises BUD/S endure during training.

Andrew Simontacchi
Andrew Simontacchi