Officials: 2 dead, 5 missing in chocolate factory explosion

WEST RIDING, PA – An explosion at a Pennsylvania chocolate factory on Friday left two people dead and five people missing. One person was pulled out of the ruins at night.

Rescue crews using dogs and imaging equipment continued to search the wreckage Saturday – hours after the explosion, which ripped through the RM Palmer Co. plant in West Reading, about 60 miles (96 kilometers) northwest of Philadelphia, shortly before 5 p.m. Friday. .

Officials in West Reading said Saturday they could only confirm two deaths. The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency earlier put the death toll at five, citing county emergency management officials, but a county update also listed two dead and five missing.

Police Chief Wayne Holben said pulling one person from the wreckage “gives hope that others will be found.” Rescuers continued a thorough search using specialized equipment and techniques. Officials said dogs and imaging equipment were used to search for signs of life as the debris was carefully removed.

According to Holben, the explosion destroyed one building and damaged a neighboring building. According to him, the reason is under investigation.

“It’s pretty much leveled,” Mayor Samantha Kaag said of the blast site. “The building in front, with the church and the apartments, the blast was so great that it moved four feet forward.”

A spokesman for UGI Utilities said crews were brought in after damage from the explosion caused the release of gas that was helping to extinguish the fire.

“We did not receive any calls about gas leaks or gas orders prior to the incident, but we are cooperating with the investigation and part of that will be checking the area around all of our facilities,” UGI spokesman Joseph Swope said Saturday.

READ ALSO -  Officers will not be charged in the fatal drive-by shooting of an Ohio man

Redding Hospital said it received 10 patients Saturday afternoon, one of which was transferred to Lehigh Valley Hospital and the other to Penn State Health St. Joseph Medical Center. Two were taken to Reading Hospital in fair to fair condition, and the others have been discharged, officials said.

Kaag said people were asked to move back about a block in that direction, but there was no evacuation. He issued the emergency declaration only to allow more resources for first responders. Borough Manager Dean Murray said some residents were displaced from the damaged building.

Philip Werth, vice-president of West Reading Council, said the building was built in the late 1950s or early 1960s and officials had to “access our archives last night to pull up drawings to get a better layout of the building. and mechanics and utilities, where things are.”

“The silver lining in all of this is that somebody was found alive, somebody was found alive in the wreckage, not knowing if they were going to live or die, and fortunately we found that person and they have a second chance, and hopefully fingers crossed we find more,” he said .

Officials said RM Palmer, who Murray described as a “major part of the district,” is expected to make an announcement soon.

RM Palmer’s website says it has been making “chocolate novelties” since 1948 and now has 850 employees at its West Reading headquarters. Its Facebook page includes ads for Easter treats from earlier this month, such as chocolate bunnies and the “newest milk chocolate hollow” in its “bunny family” as jelly beans inside. The company is by no means the most famous chocolate maker in the region, with Hershey less than an hour west.

READ ALSO -  Anderson police are asking for help finding suspects who stole lottery tickets

appId : '1575767939378722',

xfbml : true, version : 'v2.9' ); ; (function(d, s, id) var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); = id; js.src = ""; js.async = true; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); (document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));
Follow WT LOCAL on Social Media for the Latest News and Updates.
Share this news on your Facebook,Twitter and Whatsapp.

Newsletter Updates

Enter your email address below to subscribe to our newsletter