Homicide ruling of SEAL death raises safety questions

by Alfonso Matthews Julio 11, 2016, 7:25

The medical examiner's report supported the charge, saying the instructor violated training guidelines and contributed to the sailor's death.

The San Diego Medical Examiner issued its report on the death of a U.S. Navy SEALs candidate who died during a pool training exercise earlier this year.

The report also stated the trainee, who had been on the program for a week, and was desperate to be a Navy SEAL, had been taking Singulair for his asthma, and his heartbeat was slight slower than average.

During the exercise, instructors usually create adverse conditions by splashing water, making waves and yelling, but they are advised not to dunk or pull students under water, according to the report.

Several former SEALs told The Associated Press that the instructor's actions did not strike them as unusual.

The Navy is conducting an internal investigation and the instructor, whose identity has not been made public, has been reassigned to administrative duties until the investigation is complete.

"The decedent is also splashed by other instructors in the water".

"These are high-risk trainings so if they are done enough times, they're going to have a death", he said. The instructor looks like he is dunking Lovelace's head under the water in the swimming pool.

Lovelace of Crestview, Florida, who was in his first week of training, showed signs he was having difficulty treading water in fatigues, boots and a dive mask filled with water. During an exercise that tested the stamina of trainees to stay underwater, he recalled, "guys pushed themselves so hard to stay down, they would force themselves to black out, but instructors would be ready to bring them back to consciousness". That video has not been publicly released, but according to the medical examiner, a SEAL instructor "is seen to dunk [Lovelace] under the water and then follow him around the pool for approximately five minutes".

"Although the manner of death could be considered by some as an accident, especially given that the decedent was in a rigorous training program that was meant to simulate an "adverse" environment, it is our opinion that the actions, and inactions, of the instructors and other individuals involved were excessive and directly contributed to the death", Pathology Fellow Dr. Kimi Verilhac wrote in the report.

The details released in an autopsy report do not "signal that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigation into Seaman Lovelace's death has culminated, nor that conclusions have been reached regarding criminal culpability", Buice said.

The highly unusual ruling is serious and could affect the SEALs' basic training practices, said former Navy Capt. Lawrence Brennan, an adjunct professor at Fordham Law School who served as a Navy judge advocate.

A surveillance video of the May training exercise shows Lovelace struggling in a swimming pool during training.

Witnesses reported that Lovelace's face turned a purple color "and his lips turned blue".

James Lovelace, 21, died on May 6, 2016 during a training exercise known as "drown-proofing".

But the medical examiner disagreed.

The coroner's report charged that the instructors' actions were "excessive", even though acknowledging Lovelace was participating in one of the military's most intensive training regimens. He was pronounced dead at Sharp Coronado Hospital near downtown San Diego at 2:36 p.m., less than an hour after he was pulled from the water.

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