Their families could not be reached for comment.
A message that was sent to active-duty SEALs by a SEAL officer a day after the two men were lost, and that was obtained by The New York Times, said the younger SEAL had slipped from the ladder and his more experienced platoonmate went in after him. The message said a third SEAL had also fallen during the boarding, and hit the SEALs’ speedboat before going into the water. That SEAL was quickly rescued, but the other two were lost.
The details of the accident have puzzled many current and former SEALs, according to Eric Deming, a retired SEAL senior chief who performed similar missions.
The Navy has used destroyers to repeatedly intercept ships hauling weapons bound for Yemen in recent years without incident. Why, Mr. Deming asked, did the SEAL task force commander decide to board a slow-moving dhow at night in dangerous seas, rather that wait for better conditions?
It is standard for SEALs on boarding missions to wear flotation devices and locator beacons, he said. If those safeguards were being followed, and Navy speedboats and helicopters were in the immediate area, Mr. Deming asked, how could two SEALs have been lost?