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Top stories of 2013: Tragedies led off the year in La Cañada

From Sagebrush to the iconic deodar, it's been a busy year for La Cañadans.

December 27, 2013|By Valley Sun Staff
  • Students and community members came together during a memorial Campbell Taylor, who jumped to his death on Friday at La Cañada High School on Friday, March 1, 2013 in La Cañada Flintridge.
Students and community members came together during… (Photo by Libby Cline )

La Cañada Flintridge had a difficult first quarter in 2013 as residents coped with two tragic events. But the city also experienced positive changes throughout the year, such as a surge in the number of businesses in the downtown area and a change of hands at the Plaza de La Cañada.

New members were elected to both the City Council and La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board, and they will shape decisions in the year to come.

We take a look back at some of the top La Cañada stories of the year:

The close-knit community was rocked by two tragedies on the same day. At around 10 a.m. on Friday, March 1, a gas explosion near the pool at the Sport Chalet store seriously injured two employees.

Lauren Polzin, 27, who led the store's scuba department and Victor Gonzalez, 25, a store supervisor, were hospitalized with severe burns.

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The incident occurred next door to the sporting goods chain's headquarters. In a statement, the company said that it was "the first time in the company's 54-year history that such a tragic event has occurred."

The incident caused nearly $10,000 in damage to the store, but there was minimal damage to the building.

In May, Polzin filed a lawsuit with her husband. The lawsuit alleged that the gas-supply system in the store was unsafe and that Sport Chalet and other defendants were negligent.

Sport Chalet helped to raise thousands of dollars for the victims in a fundraiser following the incident.

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After authorities cleared the scene at Sport Chalet, another incident occurred less than 2 miles away at La Cañada High School.

At 3:55 p.m., 17-year-old Campbell Forrest Taylor jumped to his death from the third-floor walkway of the junior high building on campus.

Wendy Sinnette, superintendent of schools, held a press conference that night inside the school's gym and students mourned their classmate's death during a candlelight vigil on campus the following day. A somber mood fell over the city as residents grappled with the death of a local student who was active in theatre productions and on the campus newspaper.

Current and former students asked district officials for permission to create a space on campus where they could pay their respects to Campbell and write on a chalkboard about what they wanted to accomplish in their lives, but the project was never approved.

The district, however, held a forum on suicide for families to gain information and ask experts anonymous questions.

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