Family of Navy SEAL trainee who drowned to take legal action

Seaman James "Derek" Lovelace. (U.S. Navy)

PENSACOLA, Fla. (WEAR) - The family of a Crestview native and Navy SEAL trainee who died during a pool exercise is filing lawsuits against the government and a training instructor.

The Navy said there was not a crime that led to the death of Seaman James "Derek" Lovelace. He died last May during a training exercise.

From the very beginning, Lovelace's family has asked for accountability. They don't want to change the Navy SEAL standards but they believe what happened to Lovelace should have never taken place nor should it ever happen again.

"It's just a punch in the gut. We want to see something done. We want some explanation. We want something. You know, it's just grasping at straws," explained Lovelace's aunt Jodi Lovelace-Patrick.

Lovelace's family said he always wanted to be a Navy SEAL and his family believed he could have been the best of the best.

"Derek was someone who did not give up. Once he started it, he was committed. And he was committed to this," his aunt said.

The Navy SEAL program is six months long but because of the intensity, 75 percent of candidates drop out in the first month.

According to witnesses, during training Lovelace was dunked two times by an instructor while struggling to tread water in full gear. The Navy does not allow dunking of trainees, but yelling and splashing is allowed.

The family wants to see the instructor held responsible for Derek's death.

"It's not about a monetary amount. There's no amount of money that can bring Derek back. It's about answers and this needs to go deeper," Lovelace-Patrick said.

The family's lawyer went on to explain the only way to "figure out what went on is to file a lawsuit against the government and the instructor and take depositions and see what actually happened."

Commander Liam Hulin, head of the Naval Special Warfare Basic Training Command, concluded no crime occurred during Lovelace's training but added, "no loss of life in training is an acceptable loss."

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