Navy SEAL trainee died of pneumonia after notorious ‘Hell Week’

Candidates for fighting force are only allowed four hours of sleep during the gruelling five day exercise

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Wednesday 12 October 2022 20:12 BST
Related video: US Navy SEAL candidate dies after ‘Hell Week’

The US Navy has punished three officers following the death of a Navy SEAL candidate hours after completing the special force’s notorious “Hell Week.”

Kyle Mullen, 24, died of acute pneumonia with the contributing cause of an enlarged heart, a Naval investigation has concluded.

Performance Enhancing Drugs were not a contributing cause of Mullen’s death, the Naval Special Warfare Command’s Line of Duty report stated.

It stated that a lack of medical observation of Mullen following the training exercise delayed his getting essential medical treatment. Mullen died on Friday 4 February after completing Hell Week, which started the previous Sunday.

The gruelling exercise consists almost entirely of physical activity, much of it in the cold Pacific Ocean, and candidates are only allowed four hours of sleep during the five-day period.

The Navy says the exercise is designed to provide “extreme stress in a controlled environment” and that there have been 10 Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) (the exercise’s official name) training-related deaths since 1953.

Of around 1,500 students who enter BUD/S training every year, only about 250 complete it, the Navy says.

The investigation found that during the exercise other recruits saw that Mullen had severe swelling in his legs and was coughing up fluids.

One recruit told investigators that when Mullen tried to sleep, it sounded like he was “gurgling water.”

By the Friday of the exercise, Mullen had been given oxygen twice by instructors and taken in an ambulance from one location to another so he could complete the training.

The report says that Mullen called his family after completing the training, but was so weak he required a wheelchair.

Following the exercise Mullen, he was coughing up blood and reportedly told other recruits not to call 911 as he did not want to be hospitalised and have to re-do Hell Week.

The report states that the candidates who had completed Hell Week were watched over in barracks by other recruits who had not yet started their class.

One recruit told investigators that Mullen should have been taken to the hospital for treatment as he was not “in his right mind.”

By the time recruits called 911 to get help, Mullen could not be revived.

Now the Navy has issued letters of warning to Capt. Brian Drechsler, the commanding officer of the Naval Special Warfare Center; Capt. Bradley Geary, the former commanding officer of the Basic Training Command, and a senior medical officer.

The Navy is carrying out an investigation into safety measures in place, the qualifications of medical staff and instructors, as well as the use of performance-enhancing drugs in Mullen’s class.

“Our deepest sympathy extends to Seaman Mullen’s family and friends during this difficult time,” said Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command, Rear Adm. Keith Davids. “Kyle’s death will not be in vain. We have a moral obligation to learn everything we can from Kyle’s tragic death so that we can ensure the safety of all future candidates.”

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