21-Year-Old Navy SEAL Trainee Displayed Advanced Strength Before Dying After Pool Exercise

James Derek Lovelace displayed advance physical strength before training begun.

May 11, 2016, 2:30 PM
PHOTO: Seaman James Derek Lovelace, 21, died during his first week of training after he was pulled from a pool exercise Friday in Coronado, California.
Seaman James Derek Lovelace, 21, died during his first week of training after he was pulled from a pool exercise Friday in Coronado, California.

— -- The 21-year-old Navy SEAL trainee who died last week during an introductory pool training exercise in Coronado, California, would have had to display advanced physical strength before reaching that stage in his training.

Seaman James Derek Lovelace was in his first week of training when he was pulled out of a swimming pool Friday during underwater demolition training after he showed signs of having difficulty, the Navy said in a statement today. He was wearing a camouflage utility uniform and a dive mask during the training exercise.

Instructors said he then lost consciousness and that resuscitation and first aid efforts at the scene were unsuccessful, the Navy said. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Lovelace enlisted in the Navy in November after studying mechanical engineering at the Faulkner State Community College in Minette, Alabama, according to his Naval biography. He graduated from Naval Boot Camp in Great Lakes, Illinois, in January and was stationed at the Naval Special Warfare Basic Training Command in Coronado in April.

In order to pass the boot camp level, Lovelace would have had to perform the following tasks, according to the Navy's website:

  • A 1,000-yard swim with fins in 20 minutes or under
  • At least 70 push-ups in two minutes
  • At least 10 pull-ups in two minutes
  • At least 60 curl-ups in two minutes
  • A 4-mile run within 31 minutes while wearing uniform shoes and pants
  • Candidates are put through some of the "most mentally challenging and physically demanding training in the world" before becoming Navy SEALs, according to the website.

    "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 site reads.

    Lovelace was in the second stage of training, dubbed Naval Special Warfare Orientation, which serves as an introduction to BUD/S, when he died, according to the Navy.

    "Candidates must show humility and integrity as instructors begin the process of selecting the candidates that demonstrate the proper character and passion for excellence," a description for the orientation reads.

    Prospective Navy SEALs then transition to their first days of basic underwater demolition -- the exercise Lovelace was participating in when he experienced difficulty in the pool.

    Navy officials said they are investigating the exact cause of Lovelace's death, which is unknown at this time.

    The underwater demolition exercise is designed to assess students' competency, confidence and safety in the water, according to the Navy.

    Lovelace was born in Germany and grew up in Crestview, Florida, according to his Naval biography. He is survived by his father and two sisters.

    During his time with the Navy, Lovelace earned the National Defense Ribbon and the Sharpshooter Pistol Qualification.

    “Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family and friends of SN Lovelace,” said Capt. Jay Hennessey, commanding officer of the Naval Special Warfare Center. “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.”

    Lovelace's death comes days after Coronado-based Navy SEAL Charles Keating IV was shot and killed during a battle with ISIS in Iraq. Keating was the grandson of financier Charles Keating.