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Petition demands school stop training divers, bring in third-party to investigate two recent deaths

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Members of the national diving community want CDA Technical Institute to stop training students until an investigation is complete following the deaths of two divers.

The News4JAX I-TEAM went to CDA on Wednesday and spoke with an instructor who’s not affiliated with the school.

Diving supervisor Victor Rivera said he is one of four people who started a petition that CDA Technical Institute stop demanding training divers until all the facts surrounding the two recent drownings are known.

RELATED: Student diver told instructors his helmet was filling up with water, report says

Fausto Martins, 41, died last week during an instructional class at CDA, and News4JAX learned a 34-year-old student also died following a class in February.

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At the CDA Technical Institute on Wednesday, the flags flew at half-staff in honor of Martins who died after getting out of the water at the CDA Technical Institute last Thursday. His family sent News4JAX photos of him and said he was a caring son, brother and father.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said Martins was taking an underwater diving class when water started filling his helmet. Police said Fausto was instructed to vent his mask, but by the time he was pulled to the pier, police said he was unresponsive.

It wasn’t the first death associated with the diving school.

Police said Victor Pierce, 34, also died following an underwater incident in his diving class on Feb. 12. According to Pierce’s autopsy report, alcohol was a contributing factor to his death. It’s unclear if the diving school knew Pierce was intoxicated before he got in the water.

Victor Rivera, who has over 30 years in the inland and offshore diving industry, is calling for a third-party investigation into the CDA Technical Institute.

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“We have put together a petition to be signed by all diving personnel to force CDA to cease and desist all diving operations until the investigation into the two diver deaths in the last month and a half are completed and cleared,” Rivera said. “They are still diving students, they have forced students to sign NDA’s that we know of, these are facts. They still had diving classes the same day as the last death.”

News4JAX asked the CDA Technical Diving Institute for comment about the petition and Rivera’s claims, but we were told they won’t be commenting until the police finish their investigation. Rivera told News4JAX he wants either the Navy, the Army Corps of Engineers or a group of diving supervisors to conduct an investigation.

“We don’t understand why CDA hasn’t offered grief counseling to these students, and we do not understand why they are running diving operations during the investigative process, so we are asking them to sign the petition to stand down at least through the investigations,” he said.

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News4JAX also spoke by phone with Fausto Martins’s sister and brother who said the family is just devastated by the loss. The family has hired an attorney and is taking donations to help pay for his funeral services.

Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4Jax – All rights reserved.

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