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Heart malady blamed for recruit's death at boot camp

February 11, 2015 (Photo Credit: Navy)

The Lake County, Illinois, Coroner's Office has determined a heart condition caused the death of Seaman Recruit Andrew Adams, 20, of Sarasota, Florida, in early December.

Adams died Dec. 1 after collapsing in his barracks, just days after finishing the Battle Stations event. He was slated to graduate Dec. 5.

Adams suffered from an enlarged heart due to a condition called dilated cardiomyopathy, an abnormality that can diminish the heart's blood pumping capacity, the coroner determined.

Lt. Matthew Comer, spokesman for the Navy Service Training Command in Great Lakes, confirmed the cause of death had been determined, but said he could not release the cause, stating only that it was "a pre-existing condition."

Navy sources familiar with the findings confirmed Chief Deputy Coroner Orlando Portillo's report of an enlarged heart as the official cause of death.

Comer said the Navy's inquiry into the death found no indication that the training at RTC, including the strenuous Battle Stations event, contributed to the death.

What's unclear is if Adams' physical exam prior to entering the Navy should have discovered the condition prior to his entry into the Navy.

According to the American Heart Association, cardiomyopathy is tough to diagnose as often there are no symptoms of the disease until it is too late. It can cause irregular heartbeats, dizziness and fainting. Most often it's diagnosed because doctors know to look for it based on a history of the disease in the family.

It's not known if the malady ran in Adams' family. Attempts to reach his family for comment were unsuccessful Feb. 11.

The Battle Stations event, a physically and mentally tough all-night evolution where recruits fight to save their battle-damaged ship, is essentially the final exam recruits must pass to earn the title "sailor" After they complete it successfully, they are allowed to graduate.

Adams arrived at RTC on Oct. 7 and was slated to train to be an avionics technician at Naval Air Station, Pensacola, after graduation.

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