Investigators are still piecing details together more than 10 months after a pool heater ignited inside a suburban Los Angeles sporting goods store.
Lauren Polzin is one of two employees who were injured in the blast that occurred last March inside the La Cañada Flintridge Sport Chalet. The store operates an on-site pool where people can train to become certified scuba divers. The state’s recently completed investigative report has been redacted, making it unclear who may ultimately have been responsible for fixing or causing the gas leak that triggered the explosion, said Polzin’s attorney, Abram Zukor of Zukor and Nelson.
The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in May of last year, casts a wide net. Defendants include Sport Chalet; the heater’s manufacturer, Raypak, and its parent company Rheem Manufacturing; a pool service technician, as well as a real estate developer, gas service provider, a plumber and more than a dozen other defendants. The complaint accuses all of “negligently, carelessly, recklessly and unlawfully” owning, operating and/or maintaining a pool heater and natural gas system.
Meanwhile, the state’s division of Occupational Safety and Health has found Sport Chalet in violation of California Labor Code. According the citation, “Supervisors and employees did not receive effective training in how to address imminent hazards, which could not be immediately abated without endangering employees.”
The investigation also found the retailer in violation of a regulation concerning flammable vapors. The state said the concentration of flammable gas “exceeded 25 percent of the lower explosive limit.” Sport Chalet was fined nearly $20,000. A state official said the firm has not filed an appeal.
According to local reports, an electrician discovered the gas leak when he was working on the store’s lights and he smelled fumes coming from the utility closet. After he notified the manager, Polzin and store supervisor Victor Gonzalez attempted to remedy the situation.
As the state citation reads, “… when employees entered the pool equipment room, the flammable gas explosively ignited immediately after an employee turned off the gas supply valve.”
Polzin reportedly sustained severe burns over 40 percent of her body, “causing great mental, physical and nervous pain and suffering,” the complaint stated. Damages will be determined at trial.
Gonzalez suffered third-degree burns over 60 percent of his body, per reports.
Sport Chalet, which has its headquarters near the location where the blast occurred, hosted fund-raisers for both employees. According to giveforward.com, a website where people can make donations online, Polzin and Gonzalez were the beneficiaries of a combined $25,183.
Who’s to blame? A Sport Chalet in Southern California was the scene of a pool heater explosion last March. Two employees were injured. The lawsuit holds more than a dozen businesses responsible.