Kyle Mullen, a 24-year-old Navy SEAL candidate, died on Friday, Feb. 4, after undergoing intense training during what’s referred to as “hell week” for potential recruits. The training exercise reportedly consists of five full days where candidates are submitted to intense cold, hunger, and sleep deprivation.
Releasing a statement, the Navy confirmed that Mullen, who was from Manalapan, NJ, died from complications as a result of the training exercise, though his cause of death is still under investigation.
“We are extending every form of support we can to the Mullen family and Kyle’s classmates,” said Rear Admiral H.W. Howard, commander of the US Navy Special Warfare Command. “We extend our deepest sympathies to Seaman Mullen’s family for their loss.”
The Navy confirmed that Mullen was not actively training when he passed, but that he was suffering from symptoms for “several hours” at the Sharp Coronado Hospital near the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, CA. Another man was hospitalized, but he is reportedly in stable condition. The other sailor’s identity has not been released to the public.
Ed Guerreri, the football coach at Manalapan High School, where Kyle Mullen played, told the New York Post that he was a “great athlete but a better person.”
“Everybody loved him, Coach Guerreri said. “Probably one of the best kids I ever had. Great, great kid on the field but even better off the field.”
He told the New York Post that he and his team will wear a patch on their uniforms with his number on it, No. 44, to pay respects to the former defensive lineman. Kyle Mullen then went on to play football for Yale University, where he was selected second-team All-Ivy League and became Team Captain.
According to NJ.com, Mullen caught a touchdown and had a sack in a 21-7 victory over South Brunswick and was a six-time letter winner in both his football and basketball seasons at Yale University. He was also on the Honor Roll at Yale before taking part in the Navy SEAL recruitment training program.
“He was a really talented basketball player and football player… He was an extremely smart guy, just a great kid,” said former coach Mike Hammer. “He was a great kid with a big smile on his face. He was funny, very smart, very talented, able to accomplish everything he wanted to … He was just an awesome kid.”
“We are all heartbroken to hear of Kyle’s passing,” said Charles B. Sampson, superintendent of Mullen’s old high school district, Freehold Regional. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of Kyle’s family and friends during this difficult time.”
Both Navy SEAL recruits had just completed the Basic Underwater Demolition drill, which is just the first phase of “Hell Week.”
NBC News reported that the Navy did not provide any information as to how many Navy SEAL recruits have died while training during “Hell Week,” but stated that deaths during Basic Underwater Demolition were “not unheard of.”
Representatives from the Navy confirmed that only about one in five trainees make it through the course, and that “Hell Week” produces 200 – 250 Navy SEALs each year.
The last known candidate to die during training exercises was James Derek Lovelace, 21, who drowned back in 2016. At the time, the Navy ruled his death as an “accident.”
According to NBC News, as many as 17 Navy SEAL recruits have died from training accidents over the past two decades.