INVESTIGATES: VA pulls GI Bill funding from Jacksonville’s CDA Technical Institute

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Action News Jax is continuing to investigate the two diver deaths at CDA Technical Institute.

Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office body camera video shows officers responding to Flamingo Lake back in February following a drowning.

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

“I had just gotten to the group, I was like one of the last ones that just got to the group. I turned around and they’re pointing: ‘What the hell are we pointing at?’” one diver recounted to JSO officers in the newly-released body cam video.

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

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

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“All I saw was bubbles. So the instructor, Kyle, the one with the cap on right there, swims out over there, brings him up and all I see is blue,” another diver told JSO.

Action News Jax first told you last week when we uncovered another death under CDA Technical Institute in Jacksonville.

41-year-old Fausto Martins and 34-year-old Victor Pierce died within two months of each other during training.

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

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

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

Several of them said Pierce was straggling behind the rest.

INVESTIGATES: CDA Technical Institute failed to report Feb. drowning, according to ADCI

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

Another diver told JSO Pierce was out there alone.

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

Divers told JSO they think he was under the water for a little over a minute.

The Medical Examiner’s Office report said alcohol intoxication was a contributing factor to Pierce’s drowning. The report said his blood alcohol content was .377.

Several divers deny noticing anything.

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

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

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

One diver did admit to knowing Pierce was drinking.

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

Last week, we learned the Association of Diving Contractors International, Inc. is conducting an audit for cause at CDA.

Former CDA student and instructor at the Ocala training facility Robert Watson said losing an accreditation is a big deal.

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

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

We learned that the State of Florida’s Department of Veterans Affairs has withdrawn 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 during his time at CDA, he knew a lot of divers who were there under VA funding.

“It’s a pretty big deal. They’d lose a lot of clients,” Watson said.

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

We reached back out to ADCI Executive Director Phil Newsum to check on the progress of their audit. He said CDA’s owner Ray Black did receive the notice but they have not started the audit yet.

We reached out to CDA and we were told no comment.

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