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Navy recruit dies during boot camp; 2nd death in two months

Aerial view showing the special recruit graduation "Pass in Review" Ceremony held at Ross Field, Naval Training Center (NTC), during the NCTs 90TH Birthday Celebration, North Chicago, Illinois, June 29, 2001. (Michael Worner/U.S. Navy)
April 26, 2019

A Navy recruit died suddenly during training this week.

During her final physical fitness assessment, Seaman Recruit Kelsey Nobles went into cardiac arrest and collapsed, later passing away at a local civilian hospital on Tuesday, Navy Times reported.

“The Navy, and Recruit Training Command, take the welfare of our recruits and Sailors very seriously and are investigating the cause of this tragic loss,” Recruit Training Command spokesman Lt. Joseph Pfaff told Navy Times. “Our thoughts are with Seaman Recruit Nobles’ family and friends during this tragic time.”

The incident occurred at Naval Station Great Lakes near Chicago, where another recruit collapsed and died in February.

Seaman Recruit Kierra Evans, 20, was also enduring a physical fitness assessment on Feb. 22 when she collapsed and died hours later at a local hospital.

She was due to graduate the following week.

“She was on track to graduate March 1st, as long as she passed all remaining training requirements,” Pfaff told Navy Times in March. “The Navy, and Recruit Training Command, take the welfare of our sailors very seriously and are investigating the cause of this tragic loss.”

An autopsy was conducted to determine the cause of Evans’ death, although results will not be available until May or June.

After Evans’ death, the Navy conducted a review on “the training, safety, medical processes, and overall procedures regarding the implementation of the (physical fitness assessment) and found no discrepancies in its execution.”

“If information is discovered during the course of the investigation revealing deficiencies in our processes or procedures, that could improve safety in training, it would be acted on,” Pfaff added.

The first recruit death at Naval Station Great Lakes took place in Jan. 2012 when Christopher Walker, 19, set off on a one-and-a-half mile training run in preparation for his last physical fitness assessment, Chicago Tribune reported at the time.

During the run, Walker had to pause when he became disoriented. He died a little more than an hour later.

The local coroner said an autopsy performed on Walker showed no signs of trauma, disease, or drugs or alcohol abuse.

Numerous recruits have died of cardiac arrest during training over the years, a frequency so alarming that it has sparked a discussion and initiated some changes, and continues to do so.

The March 2018 death of Marine recruit Patrick Vega, 21, prompted the installation of automatic external defibrillators posted in squad bays along with posters showing how to operate them in the event of a cardiac emergency, Marine Corps Times reported in January.