SAN DIEGO – The commanding officer of the Naval Special Warfare Basic Training Command has determined that the 6 May 2016 death of Seaman James ‘Derek’ Lovelace, a Basic Underwater Demolition and SEAL training (BUD/S) trainee, was not the result of a crime and will not pursue criminal charges against any personnel in connection with the death.
The decision by Cmdr. Liam Hulin, follows his review of a Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) investigation. The NCIS investigation was initiated and carried out according to Department of Defense regulations pertaining to any death that occurs during training.
“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the Lovelace family,” said Hulin. “No loss of life in training is an acceptable loss.”
The scope of the NCIS case was sufficient to provide Hulin with information necessary to determine whether the training fatality may have been caused by the commission of a crime. Based on the determination that criminal actions should not be taken against any personnel involved in the training evolution, a safety review previously held in abeyance to avoid a conflict among investigations, has initiated.
SN Lovelace’s death occurred during Combat Swimmer Orientation, a water training exercise performed during the first week of BUD/S. The training assesses and develops students’ competence, confidence and safety in the water. During the exercise students tread water and swim in a pool while wearing diving masks, and camouflage utility uniform with boots. While treading water, students performs survival skills that involve the removal of their mask, boots and uniform.
“To honor those who have fallen in combat we must provide the most realistic and operationally relevant training possible. To honor those who have fallen in training we must effectively mitigate the risks of that training,” said Capt. Jay Hennessey, Commander, Naval Special Warfare Training Center.
“NSW training has been refined over more than 50 years, informed throughout by lessons learned in combat overseas as well as in training at home. We learn not only from our successes, but also from operational and training failures, mistakes and accidents. While these tragic occasions are infrequent, they greatly impact our small close-knit force and magnify the responsibility we feel to our teammates who have paid the ultimate price,” said Hennessey.
The Naval Special Warfare Center, of which the Basic Training Command is a component, trains, qualifies and develops Naval Special Warfare Operators which form the foundation of the world’s preeminent maritime special operations force. The maritime environment is the most hostile environment on the planet for military operations and requires operators with comfort, skill and confidence in the water to accomplish the mission.