INVESTIGATES: Jacksonville dive school loses another dive accreditation, more agencies reviewing

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Another diving accrediting agency has cut ties with CDA Technical Institute.

Action News Jax first told you when IMCA and the VA both revoked their privileges from the Jacksonville-based dive school several weeks ago.

Now, we learned that CDA is no longer affiliated with the Association of Diving Contractors International (ADCI).

Back in April, ADCI Executive Director Phil Newsum said CDA was under membership review after the recent deaths of Victor Pierce and Fausto Martins.

During that time, ADCI suspended CDA’s membership. Now, the two have officially cut ties altogether.

“As of June 2022, we will no longer be issuing certifications to the graduates of CDA,” Newsum said.

Newsum said after learning of a third death associated with the school, the agency asked CDA to start its audit for cause in June.

Action News Jax first told you last week that CDA was sued by a former student’s family after he died while scuba diving at what they called a “CDA event” in 2021.

During that conversation about the death of Isaiah Johnson, Newsum said CDA decided it would relinquish its membership in the association.

“Have you ever had a dive school straight up relinquish its own membership from you all?” Action News Jax reporter Gretchen Kernbach asked Newsum in a phone interview.

“Never,” Newsum said.

“This has never happened?” Kernbach said.

“This has never happened. This has never happened while I was with the association and I’ve never seen it since my time in the industry,” Newsum said,

Action News Jax also learned the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET) issued a show-cause to the school last month.

In a letter to CDA, ACCET said, “This serious action was based on the Accrediting Commission’s concerns relative to the institution’s financial stability following recent negative actions taken by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs and the Department of Education which have the potential to impair the institution’s ability to continuously operate or fulfill its obligation to students.”

ACCET goes on to note CDA’s failure to follow mandated reporting requirements.

It said CDA failed to notify ACCET within 10 days of the VA’s withdrawal and the student diver deaths.

The show’s cause is not an adverse action but a statement of concern. ACCET asked CDA to submit an interim report by May 27.

Action News Jax reached out to CDA owner Captain Ray Black.

He did not want to do an interview but he told us the school did submit an interim report to ACCET.

He also said CDA and ADCI did not see eye-to-eye on a training philosophy, so that’s why he decided to withdraw its membership.

Following the deaths of the two divers, which started the controversy with the school, their families and supporters traveled to Jacksonville to protest the school in two separate protests back in May.

The Martins’ family stood with signs outside the gate at CDA on May 12. Fausto died while training under CDA back in April.

“There needs to be something done and nothing is being done by them,” Fausto’s brother Jose said back in May.

Another group of protesters including Victor Pierce’s family and Jesse Abrams’ family occurred the next day.

Pierce died in February under CDA while scuba diving in Flamingo Lake. Abrams died of an accidental fentanyl overdose in August of 2019 outside the CDA dorms.

Former CDA instructor Christopher Martin joined the two families in support.

“We’re not going to stop,” Martin said at the protest in May.

Captain Black said the school delayed starting a new diving class in May to implement new policies, including mandatory alcohol breathalyzer and drug tests before diving.

He said CDA is reassessing how it can be better.

Newsum said divers can transfer to another dive school if they wish.

“They do have the option to go ahead and explore getting into one of the other schools that are available to them, and all of the schools are aware of the situation,” Newsum said. “I don’t know of any school that wouldn’t work with the student or the student’s family to try and get them in.”

Newsum said that any students or their families can reach out to ADCI if they’re interested in transferring schools.

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