‘My heart exploded’: Father of Navy SEAL who died in 2016 responds to recent death of SEAL candidate

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Following last week’s tragic, mysterious death of U.S. Navy SEAL candidate Seaman Kyle Mullen, the father of another aspiring SEAL who died during training is speaking out and seeking justice.

Mullen, 24, had just completed the grueling “Hell Week” of SEAL training when, hours later, he and another candidate suddenly took ill. Both were rushed to local hospitals, but sadly, Mullen, who was assigned to the Naval Special Warfare Basic Training Command in San Diego, California, did not recover. To date, the death is under investigation and no further information about Mullen’s fatal illness has been released.

In an exclusive interview with Fox News Digital, James Lovelace said, “I’d like to send my condolences to Kyle Mullen’s family. No one can relate to their situation like I can. I know what they’re going through, and what they’re about to go through with the lack of information that they’re going to get from the U.S. navy surrounding their son’s death.”

In 2016, Lovelace’s son, James “Derek” Lovelace died in a pool at the same center as Mullen, during a SEAL training exercise. He was struggling to tread water during the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) class, when his face turned purple, his lips, blue, and he lost consciousness. He was pulled from the pool, but died later at the hospital.

Lovelace was pushed under the water “at least twice” by his instructor. The San Diego County Medical Examiner initially ruled the death a homicide, but, following a year-long investigation, the Navy declined to pursue criminal charges, according to The Associated Press.

“An autopsy revealed he had an enlarged heart that contributed to his death, and that he also had an abnormal coronary artery, which has been associated with sudden cardiac death, especially in athletes,” the AP reported.

Since his death, Derek’s father claims information related to the incident has been falsified by the Navy and other officials, and no wrongdoing has ever been acknowledged.

“I’m kind of reliving my son’s incident six years ago all over again,” Lovelace said. “It’s a sad world when this is what it takes for me to get some attention for my son: another young man dying.”

Lovelace, a retired Master Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, says his experience following his son’s death has shaken his confidence in the Armed Forces.

“I served my country with pride,” Lovelace said. “I take great pride in allowing the war fighters the tools they need to keep our country safe so our citizens can sleep well at night, to protect the homeland.”

“I am angry,” he continued. “I love my country. I don’t love my government.”

Lovelace claims the heart issues were “invented” to explain his son’s death.

“Ironically, Derek went through extensive medical screening before [he was] allowed to join,” Lovelace told Fox. “The SEAL community goes through more extensive medical tests than just your regular sailor. This was all completely falsified.”

He also dismissed Navy claims that Derek was not a strong swimmer.

“Again, this goes against everything they are,” Lovelace said. “You don’t get to BUD/S without being a strong swimmer.”

He is concerned that safety is no longer a top priority in the Navy.

“I sent my 21-year-old son off to start his career,” he said. “I had to put the faith in the Navy SEAL community that he would be safe and taken care of, and that did not happen. And parents of young men who choose this path need to know that and accept that risk that you may never see your son again.”

“It would be different if I lost my son in combat,” he added. “I would accept that. But on day five of training — that’s unacceptable.”

When he heard the news about the death of Mullen, Lovelace said, “My heart exploded.”

“I had hoped and prayed that the training machine had been fixed, that my son’s death would have corrected this problem,” he said. “And I knew that it hadn’t been corrected if another young man had died.”

Melissa Fine


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