Navy SEAL candidate died of pneumonia, treated by nonmedical personnel after completing ‘Hell Week’ training, autopsy reveals

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ASBURY PARK, N.J. — The military autoposy of Kyle Mullen, a Navy SEAL candidate who died hours after completing the grueling portion of SEAL training known as “Hell Week” in early February, revealed the cause of death as pneumonia and indicated that the New Jersey man went untreated until it was too late.

Regina Mullen, Kyle’s mother, received the report last week and shared its contents with the Asbury Park Press, part of the USA TODAY Network. Written by U.S. Army Regional Medical Examiner Wendy Warren and dated May 2, the report painted a grim picture of Mullen’s final moments.

“This sailor had completed Hell Week and was being looked after by nonmedical personnel to help him tend to his basic needs,” the report reads. “He was in a wheelchair most of the time, unable to stand and walk on his own. He had reportedly been coughing/spitting up red-tinged fluid which had nearly filled a 36 oz. sports drink bottle.

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It added: “One of the other SEAL candidates had requested medical attention due to feeling like he couldn’t breathe. As emergency personnel were summoned for that sailor, the decedent (Mullen) became unresponsive. When the ambulance crew arrived, they shifted their attention to Seaman Mullen and transported him to the hospital, where he was later pronounced deceased.”

The report names the official cause of death as “acute pneumonia due to Streptococcus pyogenes.” Streptococcus pyogenes is a Group A strep bacteria, which the report says “is capable of causing multiorgan failure and cardiovascular collapse via toxic shock.”

The accompanying toxicology report came back negative for drugs.

The report corroborates what Regina Mullen has been saying for months: that despite suffering from a dire respiratory illness, Kyle, 24, was not being overseen or treated by medical personnel. She said she also had commissioned a private autopsy that yielded the same conclusion as the military one.

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Regina Mullen is a nurse, and she has been outspoken that Kyle, who starred in football and basketball in high school and later played football at Yale and Monmouth universities, would have survived if he received prompt medical attention upon the completion of Hell Week.  

“I want the public to know what happened,” Regina Mullen said. “This wasn’t right.”

A separate investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service into why Mullen went untreated until it was too late remains ongoing.

Regina Mullen wants to see the Hell Week process reformed so SEAL candidates are overseen and treated by medical personnel immediately after completing or withdrawing from the training.

Although Kyle Mullen was pronounced dead at Sharp Coronado Hospital in San Diego, Regina Mullen said “he died in the arms of a 19-year-old, non-medical sailor” in the Navy barracks.

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U.S. Rep. Andy Kim from New Jersey wrote a letter April 14 to Sean O’Donnell, acting inspector general of the Department of Defense, seeking a separate investigation. Regina Mullen said Kim was told that won’t be possible until the NCIS investigation is complete.

Regina Mullen also asked Kim to look into why her son was taken to a public hospital while the other SEAL in distress was referred to military medical personnel.

“The curtain needs to be pulled back on this whole thing,” she said. “I am not letting this go. It’s disgusting.”

Along with the autopsy report, Regina Mullen also received a condolence card from President Joe Biden.

“Four-and-a-half months later and it’s finally acknowledged by the president,” she said. “That’s a disgrace.”