CORONADO, Calif. (KSWB) — The U.S. Navy confirmed the identity of a SEAL candidate who died Friday after completing the grueling training phase commonly known as “Hell Week.”
Sailor Kyle Mullen, a 24-year-old man from Manalapan, New Jersey, died at Sharp Coronado Hospital just after 5:40 p.m. on February 4, military officials said in a statement. Earlier in the day, he had completed a leg of his Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL (abbreviated as BUD/S) class.
Officials say Mullen was not actively training at the time of his death, but began experiencing some sort of medical emergency shortly after finishing. The Navy did not immediately provide specific details about Mullen’s symptoms or what might have caused them. An investigation is currently underway.
“We express our deepest condolences to Seaman Mullen’s family for their loss,” said Rear Admiral HW Howard III of Naval Special Warfare Command. “We are giving whatever support we can to the Mullen family and Kyle’s BUD/S classmates.”
A second contestant in the program was also hospitalized with undisclosed medical issues after Hell Week ended, officials said. They were taken to San Diego Naval Medical Center in Balboa Park and remained in treatment Saturday. Nexstar’s KSWB has requested an update on their status.
Navy SEALs are among the elite forces of the United States military, conducting special operations in harsh environments around the world. Becoming a SEAL is notoriously difficult, especially during Hell Week, which occurs during the first phase of training.
Candidates sleep only about four hours during a rigorous five and a half day period of physically and mentally exhausting exercise. At least half of the candidates do not pass, according to the Associated Press.
“It’s a miserable time, it lives up to its name,” said Paul Anderson, a former Navy Seal chief. “It’s gut control… You’re constantly doing physical evolutions, whether it’s physical obstacles, getting in and out of the surf area with your boats, racing – you’re constantly wet and you are always sandy.”
Anderson wouldn’t speculate specifically about what happened to the two SEAL candidates this week, but said injuries, illness and even death are not unheard of during the brutal training period.
The veteran said he has heard of candidates who have contracted pneumonia or inhaled water during underwater exercises. He also said candidates face immense pressure to conceal any symptoms of illness, as this can lead to them being held up by the class and forced to repeat the training or drop out.
The last reported fatality during SEAL training occurred in May 2016, when Seaman James Derek Lovelace, 21, died while undergoing BUD/S pool exercise at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. The medical examiner ruled her death a homicide by drowning, but no criminal charges were filed.
Megan Healy of KSWB contributed to this report.