VA Pulls GI Bill Funding From CDA Technical Institute of Jacksonville Action News Jax


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Action News Jax continues to investigate the deaths of two divers at the CDA Technical Institute.

Video from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office body camera shows officers responding to Flamingo Lake in February after a drowning.

RELATED: Student drowns in Trout River during underwater welding class at Jacksonville Technical Institute

“I had just arrived in the group, I was like one of the last to arrive in the group. I turned around and they pointed at me: ‘What are we pointing at?’ a diver told JSO officers in the recently released body camera video.

A scene of chaos unfolded at Flamingo Lake a few months ago.

In the video, you can see officers and divers huddled near the edge of the lake.

RELATED: Brother of man who drowned in Trout River during welding course speaks

“All I saw were bubbles. So the instructor, Kyle, the one with the cap right there, swims over there, brings it in and all I see is blue,” another diver told JSO.

Action News Jax first told you this last week when we learned of another death under the CDA Technical Institute in Jacksonville.

Fausto Martins, 41, and Victor Pierce, 34, died two months apart during training.

RELATED: 2 deaths at Jacksonville dive school in 2 months, report says; petition calls for a halt to operations

In the video, you can hear officers questioning everyone at the scene about what exactly happened to Pierce.

The other students said the group was instructed to meet at what they called the “bubbler”.

Several of them said that Pierce trailed behind the others.

INVESTIGATION : CDA Technical Institute did not report February drowning, ADCI says

“He grabbed the wrong regulator, so he had to go back,” said one diver.

Another diver said JSO Pierce was there alone.

Divers came back to him to help him when they noticed he was struggling.

Divers told JSO they believed he was underwater for just over a minute.

The medical examiner’s office report said alcohol intoxication was a contributing factor in Pierce’s drowning. The report says his blood alcohol level was 0.377.

Several divers deny having noticed anything.

“When he sat next to you in the van?” Did he smell of alcohol or anything? asked a JSO officer.

“I don’t remember anything like that. I have a bad sense of smell anyway,” the diver replied.

“He seemed normal to me,” said another diver.

A diver admitted knowing that Pierce was drinking.

“Beer, booze, that’s what he smells like, I guess there was a bottle in his bag,” one diver said.

Last week we learned that the Association of Diving Contractors International, Inc. was conducting a cause audit at the ADC.

Former ADC student and Ocala Training Center instructor Robert Watson said losing accreditation is a big deal.

“It’s supposed to mean a higher standard, a bigger margin of safety, it makes it more believable if you have a reputable agency that claims to teach the training to their standards,” Watson said.

If ADCI is conducting a membership review, what does that mean for other agencies, like the Florida State Department of Veterans Affairs?

We have learned that the Florida State Department of Veterans Affairs has withdrawn the CDA Technical Institute’s approval to train veterans under the GI Bill, citing recent deaths and student complaints. Read the full letter below.

Watson said that during his time at CDA he knew many of the divers who were there under VA funding.

” It’s a big problem. They would lose a lot of customers,” Watson said.

Also in the video, divers told JSO they checked all their equipment before entering to make sure it was working properly.

We reached out to ADCI Executive Director Phil Newsum to check on the status of their audit. He said CDA owner Ray Black had received the notice, but they hadn’t started the audit yet.

We contacted CDA and were told no comments.


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