CORONADO, Calif. (KGTV) - On February 4, 24-year-old Kyle Mullen of New Jersey, died at Sharp Coronado Hospital. Mullen was a Navy SEAL candidate and according to the Navy, he was taken to the hospital several hours after his Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL (BUD/S) class successfully completed Hell Week, a grueling part of the first phase of the Navy SEAL assessment and selection pathway.
“He really wanted to do it to help save people,” said his mother Regina Mullen in an exclusive interview with ABC’s Amy Robach. Regina Mullen shared the last conversation she had with her son.
He sent me a text, "Hell Week secured!" I saw it and I call him. And he says, "I did it, Mom." And he was so happy. And I heard him outta breath. And I said, "Kyle, are you okay? Are you hurt? Are you in a hospital?" And he just responded, "Don't worry, Mom, I'm good. I love you." And he hung up. And then I texted him immediately, "You don't sound good." And I never heard from him again.
As a nurse, Regina said she could tell her son was having difficulty breathing. She later would get a knock on her door, letting her know Kyle was not coming home.
“I don't have any autopsy results, they're investigating it,” she said. “I believe he-- they laid him flat, and he had SIPE, and he most likely couldn't breathe, and he probably suffocated from his own bodily fluids.”
SIPE stands for Swimming Induced Pulmonary Edema, a condition where fluid builds up in the lungs. Most cases clear up in a couple of days, but in rare situations, it can be deadly.
Regina said her son was treated for SIPE during training in January.
The cause of Kyle Mullen’s death has not been released.
A media officer for the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command sent ABC 10News a statement saying in part:
Naval Special Warfare continues to extend our deepest condolences and full support to the Mullen family. Multiple independent investigations are ongoing into the circumstances surrounding Seaman Kyle Mullen’s death. Until the investigations are complete, it is inappropriate to speculate on the cause of death or contributing factors,” the statement went on to say, “Candidates routinely receive medical assessments and we encourage all candidates to seek medical care with no impact to their status in our selection pathway. Medical professionals, specifically trained to treat candidates, attend every assessment evolution with rapid response medical staff support. The BUD/S first phase of Assessment and Selection culminates in a week long crucible designed to assess attributes within an environment that mirrors combat stress. All candidates receive head-to-toe medical evaluations, including a full set of core vitals, a minimum of once a day and as required throughout the week, as well as upon conclusion of the assessment event.
A spokesperson for NCIS tells ABC 10News “NCIS is conducting a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Kyle Mullen, as we do in response to any non-combat, medically unexpected fatalities of Department of the Navy service members. Out of respect for the investigative process, NCIS does not discuss or confirm details relating to ongoing investigations.”
Regina Mullen believes her son did not receive the proper medical support he needed, and that more could have been done to prevent his death.
“They need better training. They need better monitoring, and this could never, ever happen again,” she said.
The Naval Special Warfare command tells ABC 10News a second candidate hospitalized the same day as Kyle Mullen was released from the hospital on Feb. 8.