SAN DIEGO (AP) — A 21-year-old Navy SEAL trainee died last week during his first week of basic training in Coronado, California, a Navy spokesman said Tuesday.
Seaman James “Derek” Lovelace was pulled out of the pool Friday after showing signs he was having difficulty while treading in a camouflage uniform and a dive mask, Naval Special Warfare Center spokesman Lt. Trevor Davids said.
Lovelace lost consciousness after being pulled out of the pool and was taken to a civilian hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Davids said. The death was first reported by NBC News and The Virginian-Pilot.
The exact cause of the death is unknown, and Navy officials are investigating, Davids said.
Lovelace was in his first week of training as a SEAL trainee after joining the Navy about six months ago, Davids said. The exercise is designed to assess students’ competency, confidence and safety in the water, according to the Navy.
Lovelace was born in Germany, and he dreamed of becoming a SEAL, according to a death announcement from Whitehurst Powell Funeral Home and Southern Heritage Crematory in his home town of Crestview, Florida.
He enjoyed any activity on the water and played baseball at Crestview High School and Faulkner State Community College in Bay Minette, Alabama, according to the death announcement. Lovelace joined the Navy and graduated basic training on Jan. 28, 2016, in Great Lakes, Illinois. His awards and decorations include the National Defense Ribbon and Sharpshooter Pistol Qualification.
“I don’t know what to say. He was wonderful,” his sobbing grandmother, Jan Pugh, told The Virginian-Pilot. “It was a dream he was chasing out there. He was determined to become a SEAL . We are all just in shock.”
His mother, Katie Lovelace, died in June 2015 at the age of 44, according to the two media outlets. He is survived by his father and two sisters.
Final arrangements are pending.
“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.”
The death comes only days after another Coronado-based SEAL — Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Charles Keating IV — was shot and killed during a gunbattle involving Islamic State fighters in Iraq. Naval Special Warfare will hold a private memorial service for Keating on Thursday for his family, friends and fellow SEAL team member, followed by a private funeral on Friday.
A special procession in Coronado will also be held Friday that will be open to the public. Keating will be buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.