Posted by kelpdiver on September 19, 2000 at 20:11:10:
In Reply to: La Crescenta Fatality? posted by SLANG on September 18, 2000 at 11:55:41:
Mine Diving Victim Was Member of Elite Military Rescue Unit
By ANDREW BLANKSTEIN, JEFFREY GETTLEMAN, Times Staff Writers
The accident was freakish enough: a diver trapped in an old, murky well in La
Crescenta, his safety rope hopelessly tangled as he fought for air.
But the fact that it happened to Paul Francis Hayden, say those close to him, is truly
Hayden was a U.S. Air Force pararescuer, a member of one of the most elite,
best-trained units in the military, a tightly muscled 39-year-old who had plunged from
helicopters, swum against currents and hoisted hurt fishermen from frothy seas.
Hayden died Sunday during a recreation dive in Goss Canyon in which he
suffocated in an 85-year-old abandoned well blasted out of a mountainside.
His colleagues at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson were stunned when
they learned about the accident. Hayden, who joined the Air Force's equivalent of the
Navy SEALS in 1986, was a full-time instructor known for his caution and reserve.
"Paul was not a thrill seeker," said his commanding officer, Col. Kent Clark. "He
was extremely careful. He was always very conscientious about inspecting his
equipment and took care of the people with him. I just can't figure out what went
On Sunday, Hayden, a master sergeant, and his brother Michael hiked into remote,
rugged Goss Canyon in the foothills of La Crescenta, lugging scuba equipment, said the
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Goss Canyon is a local secret, not known to many outsiders but a scenic refuge for
those who can find it. At the top of the canyon, buried within the steep, granite walls, is
a well that was opened in 1915 and long since abandoned. Hayden and his six brothers
and sisters, who grew up in La Crescenta, turned the well into a summer hangout,
swimming and diving in the pools and exploring the myriad tunnels and caverns that
reached hundreds of feet underground, said Hayden's mother, Edythe.
On Sunday, Hayden and his 42-year-old brother crawled into the 3- by 4-foot well
opening, tethered themselves to each other with a rope, and began diving with air tanks
But within 15 minutes , something went wrong. Hayden's rope got tangled while he
was squeezed into one of the narrow tunnels filled with cold, silty water, authorities
said. His brother tried to pull him out but couldn't.
At 1:20 p.m., Michael Hayden burst through the doors of the Crescenta Valley
sheriff's station asking for help. Sheriff divers responded and three hours later found
Hayden's body in a shaft half-full with water.
Hayden, whose head was found out of water, apparently suffocated from lack of
oxygen, said Scott Carrier of the Los Angeles County coroner's office. Carrier could
not say whether he was asphyxiated by carbon dioxide, but did say that Hayden's
scuba tank had plenty of air.
An autopsy will be scheduled later this month, Carrier said.
Hayden's family described him as an adventurer who once fought an octopus in the
Atlantic Ocean, enjoyed extreme sports like ice climbing and hang gliding, and always
was up for another challenge, another impossible test.
"Paul was energy," said his sister Christine.
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