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Victims of La Canada Sport Chalet blast are making slow recovery

March 15, 2013 | 11:03 am

Emergency crews outside Sport Chalet in La Cañada on March 1. Credit: Tim Berger/Times Community News

Two weeks after a gas explosion rocked the La Cañada Flintridge Sport Chalet store, two employees who sustained severe burns in the incident are making a slow recovery.

Lauren Polzin, a 27-year-old worker injured in the blast, can't move her hands or talk, said her husband, Neil Polzin. She sustained second and third-degree burns over a large portion of her body, he said.

“I can't imagine what she's going through, stuck in a bed, in pain,” he said. “We're hoping for the best.”

On March 1, Polzin and store supervisor Victor Gonzalez, 25, were injured after they were asked to shut off a gas valve when someone reporting smelling gas, according to fire officials. The incident occurred about 10 a.m. in a utility closet near the store's pool.

Both employees were taken to Huntington Memorial Hospital immediately after the incident, but Polzin has since been transferred to another hospital. Family members declined to say which one.

Gonzalez is in stable condition at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center after suffering third-degree burns to 61% of his body, said his wife, Elsie Martinez.

“He hasn't had any complications,” Martinez said. “We're just taking it one day at a time.”

Martinez said her husband has already talked about going back to work, but doctors do not have a timeline for his recovery.

“We're not sure how long it will take,” she said. “I know he wants to go back. He loves his job.”

The company has offered ample support, Martinez added.

“They're doing everything they possibly can to help us out. They're concerned about him and about us.”

Last Friday, Sport Chalet announced a blood drive and fundraisers to support both employees. The company will host the drive with the American Red Cross on March 26, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will take place at the corporate offices of Sport Chalet, which is next to the store on One Sport Chalet Drive in La Cañada.

The explosion caused an estimated $10,000 in damage, officials said. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Arson Explosive Detail and the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health continue to investigate the incident.

Donors can access the fundraisers online at www.giveforward.com/Victor and www.giveforward.com/Lauren.

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--Tiffany Kelly

twitter.com/LATiffanyKelly

Photo: Emergency crews outside Sport Chalet in La Cañada on March 1. Credit: Tim Berger/Times Community News

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