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News Story
Updated: 04/11/2017 11:14:53PM

Navy says no charges in drowning death during SEAL training

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FILE - This undated file photo released by the Naval Special Warfare Center shows Seaman James "Derek" Lovelace. Lovelace, was a Navy SEAL trainee who died during his first week of basic training in Coronado, Calif. On Monday, April 10, 2017, the commanding officer of the Naval Special Warfare Basic Training Command announced that the May 2016 death of Lovelace was not the result of a crime and will not pursue criminal charges against any personnel in connection with the death. (Naval Special Warfare Center via AP, File)

This undated photo released by the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, shows a roller suitcase filled with cash that was seized during a traffic stop Saturday, April 8, 2017, in Castro Valley, Calif. Authorities said a traffic stop for a cellphone violation led to the seizure of 320 pounds of marijuana, valued at more than $1 million, and another $1 million in cash. Two men were arrested after a California Highway Patrol officer tried to pull over a van on Interstate 580. The Alameda County Sheriff's Office says a car cut in front of the patrol vehicle to create a distraction. (Alameda County Sheriff's Office via AP)

The Associated Press

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SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Navy will not pursue criminal charges in the drowning of a sailor who was repeatedly pushed underwater by an instructor during Navy SEAL basic training in California, authorities said.

Cmdr. Liam Hulin, head of the Naval Special Warfare Basic Training Command, found that no crime occurred during the training that killed Seaman James Derek Lovelace, a Navy statement said Monday.

Hulin’s conclusions came after his review of a Naval Criminal Investigative Service probe into Lovelace’s death 11 months ago during a pool exercise in Coronado, near San Diego.

“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the Lovelace family,” Hulin said in the statement. “No loss of life in training is an acceptable loss.”

The San Diego County Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide after finding Lovelace had been dunked at least twice by an instructor while struggling to tread water in full gear.

The autopsy also revealed Lovelace had an enlarged heart that contributed to his death. The medical examiner also found that Lovelace had an abnormal coronary artery that has been associated with sudden cardiac death, especially in athletes.

It’s unclear from the autopsy report how much Lovelace’s heart abnormalities contributed to his death.

Lovelace would have undergone a medical exam and physical fitness test before being allowed to take part in SEAL basic training, a six-month program so grueling that 75 percent of candidates drop out by the end of the first month.

Sailors who want to become SEAL candidates must be able to pass a test that includes swimming 500 yards in 12 ½ minutes, doing 50 push ups in two minutes and completing 50 curl-ups in two minutes. During basic training, they run, climb, swim in frigid waters and perform other drills, often on little or no sleep.

The Navy did not elaborate on the details of the investigation, but emphasized that SEAL training must be as close to real warfare as possible.

“To honor those who have fallen in combat we must provide the most realistic and operationally relevant training possible,” said Capt. Jay Hennessey, commander of the Naval Special Warfare Training Center, in a statement. “To honor those who have fallen in training we must effectively mitigate the risks of that training.”

Lovelace’s family did not reply to several requests for comment from The Associated Press at the time of his death, and current contact information for them could not be found.


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