Report describes SEAL trainee's desperate final moments

Navy SEAL Drowning Update
Navy SEAL Drowning Update 02:04

A Navy SEAL instructor will likely face charges in the death of a trainee, CBS News' David Martin reports.

James Derek Lovelace drowned in May during a training drill in San Diego. On Wednesday, the coroner ruled his death a homicide.

The qualification course for SEALs is notoriously tough, but for 21-year-old Lovelace it proved fatal. The San Diego county medical examiner blames his drowning on his Navy SEAL instructors.

U.S. Navy Seaman James "Derek" Lovelace, a 21-year-old Navy SEAL trainee, is seen in this undated photo released by the Naval Special Warfare Center.
U.S. Navy Seaman James "Derek" Lovelace, a 21-year-old Navy SEAL trainee, is seen in this undated photo released by the Naval Special Warfare Center. Naval Special Warfare Center via AP

"It is our opinion that the actions and inactions of the instructors ... were excessive and directly contributed to the death," the report says. "The manner of death is best classified as homicide."

It happened two months ago during a swim drill in which Lovelace, who was not considered a strong swimmer, and other students were required to tread water in fatigues and boots with their face masks full of water.

Four security cameras recorded the drill. That video has not been publicly released, but according to the medical examiner, a SEAL instructor "is seen to dunk [Lovelace] under the water and then follow him around the pool for approximately five minutes. He continually splashes [Lovelace], dunks him at least one additional time."

Both the report and Navy officials say dunking is not permitted. The report continues: "according to multiple witnesses, [Lovelace] was struggling ... his face was purple and his lips were blue."

He was still breathing and mumbling when pulled from the water, but lost consciousness and could not be revived.

The report, which has been provided to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), also found that Lovelace had an enlarged heart. That may have been a contributing factor, but the cause of death was drowning and the manner of death homicide.

The SEAL instructor who was seen dunking Lovelace has been transferred to a desk job while NCIS completes its investigation. Described as personally devastated by what happened, he is expected to face charges.