Tragic Incident at Goss Canyon: The Fate of Master Sergeant Paul Hayden

Incident LocationDiver Full Names
USA, California, Goss Canyon, La Crescenta, Angeles National ForestAir Force Master Sergeant Paul Hayden

On the morning of September 17th, 2000, Air Force Master Sergeant Paul Hayden and his brother started walking into the old horizontal water well, a long mile up remote, little-known Goss Canyon in La Crescenta, next to the Angeles National Forest.

La Crescenta

Paul had grown up in La Crescenta and had gone into the old well, opened in 1907, many times before. He was now a skilled U.S. Air Force pararescue instructor. On this trip, he intended to go farther than ever before, bypassing sumps hundreds of feet deep in the old well. About 150 feet in, they encountered water. Hayden anchored a rope at the edge of the water for use as a guideline and prepared to begin his dive. His primary light was a waterproof video camera lamp. He told his brother that he had two hours of air and to get help if he did not return within that time.

The Tragic Turn

However, about 20 minutes later, something went terribly wrong. His brother could no longer move the line, and when he did not respond to tugs on the rope, his brother went for help, calling authorities at about 1:20 PM. He hurried to the nearby La Crescenta Sheriff’s Office for assistance. Soon, rescue personnel from several agencies, using four-wheel drive vehicles to traverse the old treacherous dirt road, arrived outside the well entrance.

The Rescue Effort

About 185 feet into the flooded section and over 400 feet from the entrance, rescue diver Mark Lonsdale found Sergeant Paul’s body at about 3:45 PM, lying in a narrow horizontal passage between a rock and a steel beam. His regulators were still in place, indicating that he had probably run out of air before becoming trapped. Divers attempted to retrieve the body, but it was wedged too tightly to be moved.

Legal and Safety Considerations

The cave is within the boundaries of the Angeles National Forest, which would appear to make it illegal to enter without a special-use permit. The well was opened by private mining interests, but it has been abandoned for many years. The well is blocked by iron gates near the top. According to the authorities, there are warning signs posted near the entrance.

Unfortunately, there are still people who ignore or are unaware of the dangers associated with cave diving, often leading to tragic consequences. The Goss Canyon disaster serves as a reminder of the risks involved and the importance of proper training, preparation, and adherence to safety protocols when engaging in cave diving activities.


It is essential for all divers to approach cave diving with utmost caution, ensuring they have received proper training, equipment, and knowledge to handle the challenges that may arise. Following established safety protocols, conducting thorough checks, and maintaining awareness of one’s surroundings are crucial to mitigate risks and ensure a safe dive.

As the diving community continues to learn from these incidents and improve safety measures, it is hoped that the number of cave diving accidents and fatalities will decrease. Remember, safety should always be the top priority when engaging in any water-based activity, especially one as inherently dangerous as cave diving.


Where did the incident at Goss Canyon occur?

The incident occurred in Goss Canyon, located in La Crescenta, California, next to the Angeles National Forest.

Who was the diver involved in the incident?

The diver involved was Air Force Master Sergeant Paul Hayden.

What led to the rescue operation?

Paul Hayden’s brother went for help when he could no longer move the line and received no response from Paul. He called the authorities, leading to the rescue operation.

Where was Paul Hayden’s body found?

Paul Hayden’s body was found approximately 185 feet into the flooded section of the cave and over 400 feet from the entrance, in a narrow horizontal passage between a rock and a steel beam.

Rebecca Penrose
Rebecca, an experienced blogger, delves into the world of diving accidents, sharing insights, stories, and valuable lessons learned. Dive in and explore the depths of underwater safety.
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