Navy identifies SEAL trainee who died after ‘week from hell’

SAN DIEGO, AP — A Navy SEAL candidate who died just hours after completing the grueling Hell Week test was identified Sunday as a 24-year-old sailor who joined the military last year.

Seaman Kyle Mullen died Friday at a San Diego-area hospital after he and another SEAL trainee reported experiencing symptoms of an unknown illness, the Navy said.

The other sailor, whose name has not been released, was hospitalized in stable condition, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported Sunday.

The cause of death is unknown and under investigation. Both men fell ill just hours after passing the test that concludes the first phase of evaluation and selection for the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) elite class.

The Navy said neither had experienced any unusual accidents or incidents during the five-and-a-half-day hell week.

Rear Admiral HW Howard III, commander of Naval Special Warfare Command in Coronado, Calif., offered his condolences to Mullen’s family in a statement.

“We are giving whatever support we can to the Mullen family and Kyle’s BUD/S classmates,” Howard said.

Mullen joined the Navy in March 2021, according to his Navy biography. He reported for SEAL training in Coronado in July, the Union-Tribune said.

The Hell Week test is part of the BUD/S class, which involves basic underwater demolition, survival, and other combat tactics. It comes in week four as SEAL candidates are assessed and hope to be selected for training with Naval Special Warfare Basic Training Command.

The SEAL program tests physical and psychological strength as well as water skills and leadership skills. The program is so grueling that at least 50-60% don’t make it through Hell Week, when applicants are pushed to their limits.

The last SEAL candidate to die during the assessment phase was 21-year-old seaman James Derek Lovelace in 2016. He was struggling to walk on water at full speed in a giant swimming pool when his instructor pushed him under the water at least twice. He lost consciousness and died.

His death was initially ruled a homicide by the San Diego County Medical Examiner. A year later, after an investigation, the Navy said it would not pursue criminal charges in Lovelace’s drowning. An autopsy revealed that he had an enlarged heart which contributed to his death and that he also had an abnormal coronary artery, which has been associated with sudden cardiac death, particularly in athletes.

The autopsy report does not specify how much Lovelace’s heart abnormalities contributed to his death.

The latest death also comes just two months after a Navy SEAL commander died from injuries sustained in a training accident in Virginia. Cmdt. Brian Bourgeois, 43, fell rapidly from a helicopter and died a few days later.

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