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Family of 21-year-old Isaiah Johnson suing Jacksonville diving school for negligence after his death

The 21 year old was with a group celebrating their underwater welding certifications when he drowned.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — A family is suing the Jacksonville school, Commercial Diving Academy Technical Institute, for the death of their son.

21-year-old Isaiah Johnson drowned in September 2021 while diving at Ginnie Springs during an event to celebrate his underwater welding certification.

His mother Kimberly Cobb says they want someone to be held accountable. 

"My son should be here. He should be here and he is not. Five months after his 21st birthday, we were reading his eulogy," Cobb said in tears.

His family says the school and the instructor were negligent in regards to their practices and policies as well as their staffing. Attorney Greg Francis says Johnson was found with diving gear on, but he was not in proper diving clothing. 

Francis says their preliminary investigation shows Johnson went into the water with a dive partner who was unable to help him and then surfaced and asked for help.

Francis claims the dive equipment Johnson used the day he died was CDA's equipment and says the instructor pulled Johnson out of the water. He says Johnson was not trained to dive in the caves in Ginnie Springs. 

The family says when they arrived to Ginnie Springs after his death, people were still partying. 

“Someone just died. Like you just alleged pulled him out the water hours before that and just drinking like it was nothing," Cobb said. "To them, my son was nothing. But he is somebody. He absolutely is somebody.”

They are investigating if alcohol and drugs had anything to do with the circumstances around Johnson‘s death, but their lawyer says his toxicology report shows Johnson had no alcohol or drugs in his system.

Credit: Natalie Jackson Law P.A.
Isaiah Johnson, 21, was with a group celebrating their underwater welding certifications when he drowned in September 2021.

Johnson is from the Tampa area. He went to Hillsborough Community College. He came to Jacksonville for CDA. 

He completed his training in August 2021. 

"It is our understanding from our preliminary investigation that many of the policies and procedures that are required by Ginnie Springs - in terms of signing in, checking the equipment, and what not - were not complied with in this case," Francis explained. 

Francis says other deaths of CDA students have made the family aware that this is not an isolated incident. 

"I absolutely see a pattern," Francis said. "A pattern of lack of institutional control. A lack of oversight;. A lack of the proper policies and procedures and ensuring the policies and procedures are followed in order to insure the safety of the students."

The family attorney says CDA is not cooperating with their investigation. Francis says he is aware of 4 other deaths of students at CDA, though he says not all are from diving.

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