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SEAL candidate's family still waiting on what caused his death

It’s been two months since a SEAL candidate died at a Coronado hospital after completing training known as “Hell Week.” KPBS Military Reporter Steve Walsh says the cause of death still hasn’t been released.

It’s been two months since a SEAL candidate died at a Coronado hospital after completing training known as “Hell Week.” But the Navy still has not released the cause of his death.

Kyle Mullen, 24, died Feb. 4 after the grueling Hell Week. Hell Week is a part of SEAL training, which includes five days of near-constant motion with little sleep.

Dick Couch, a retired SEAL who has consulted with Naval Special Warfare for 30 years, said the SEALs have made changes after previous basic training deaths, including allowing anyone to call "safety halt" for any reason.


“Nobody wants to say ’I’m cold. I’m really cold. My core temperature is on the way down and I’m in trouble,’” Couch said. “Nobody wants to admit that, so it's incumbent upon instructors to watch these people very very closely, because quite often, and I can’t speak to this individual, their motivation exceeds their physical tolerance for pain.”

Mullen had finished Hell Week the morning of the day he died. The Navy says he was not in active training when he was transported to the hospital. According to the death certificate, Mullen died at Sharp Coronado at 5:35 p.m. No operation was performed. His body was released to his family two weeks later. Couch said he expects changes to SEAL basic training, called Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL or BUD/S.

“The objective is not to hurt people,” he said. “The objective is to train them and to find out who possesses the ability to acquire the skills to be a Navy SEAL.”

Last week, Mullen’s mother, Regina Marie Knap, told Good Morning America that she spoke to him the afternoon of his death. Knap is a nurse, and she believes he showed signs of swimming-induced pulmonary edema, a condition where fluid build ups in the lungs, and that he wasn’t being carefully monitored, even though Mullen showed similar symptoms during training in January.

The Navy says it won’t release further details until the autopsy is complete. A second unnamed sailor who was transported to the hospital at the same time as Mullen was eventually released and rejoined his class.