Navy SEAL dies during dive training in Key West
BY CAMMY CLARK
A 26-year-old Navy SEAL died in Key West waters during intensive dive training in preparation for an overseas deployment, according to the Naval Special Warfare Group.
Ronald Tyler Woodle of Waynesville, N.C., was part of a small group of Navy SEALs undergoing routine training at Truman Annex Harbor when he was reported missing by his teammate about 9 a.m. Monday.
Within minutes, he was found unconscious. Training for that day was in fairly shallow waters. CPR was administered and Woodle was taken to the Lower Keys Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
The cause of death was not immediately known. An autopsy and investigation into his death is under way. Results are not expected for two to three weeks.
“We will really go through the autopsy thoroughly, the gear thoroughly and interview everyone who was there to find out what exactly happened and why this unfortunate tragedy happened,” said Chief Petty Officer Stan Travioli, spokesman for the Naval Special Warfare Group 2.
Travioli said Navy SEAL dive training deaths are “very rare” because of strict Navy diving policies.
“Civilian diving is based on the Navy’s tables and Navy’s research that has gone into training and equipment,” Travioli said.
Navy SEALS often use closed-system gear to eliminate bubbles that could set off explosives or give away their location. It is not clear if Woodle was using that specialized gear or more conventional diving equipment.
Navy SEALS have to be in top physical shape and good health to make the squad.
The last SEAL to die during dive training was Eric Shellenberger, 36, who drowned in May in waters off Bremerton, Wash. He had trouble underwater, signaled for an emergency ascent but was unconscious when he was pulled to the surface and never recovered.
The SEALs have held dive training in Key West for many years because of nearby military housing, access to ships in the area for training and the clarity of the water.
Woodle, a star soccer player in high school, was a fairly new SEAL. After attending a two-year college on an athletic scholarship, he enlisted in the Navy in 2007 with the goal of joining the elite SEALs.
After a two-month boot camp, he reported to the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training in Coronado, Calif. In October he joined the SEAL team at the Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek in Virginia Beach.
“He wanted to do what was the most challenging and toughest thing to do, which was to be a SEAL,” his sister, Jerica Woodle, said in a statement.
Woodle’s commanding officer, Capt. Colin Kilrain of Naval Special Warfare Group 2, said Woodle was an exceptional SEAL operator, the SEAL’s term for a soldier.
“Petty Officer Woodle was an example of a generation of young Americans who have unselfishly answered our nation’s call over the past nine years,” Kilrain said. “He will be truly missed.”
Woodle’s mother, Kathi, said she will miss her son’s smile: “He had such a big smile and a beautiful heart.”