Pennsylvania Chocolate Factory Explosion Kills at Least 2, More Missing



  • A Friday evening explosion leveled a chocolate factory in Reading, Pennsylvania.
  • The explosion killed at least two, and sent several to the hospital; others are still missing.
  • Officials said at a Saturday morning press conference that one person was found alive overnight.

The cause of a Friday evening explosion at a Pennsylvania chocolate factory that left at least two people dead, and several missing remains unknown, according to officials.

The blast just before 5 p.m. Friday leveled one building and damaged another at R.M. Palmer chocolate factory in West Reading, Pennsylvania.  

A Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency spokesperson told Insider Saturday morning that the death toll had risen to five, with six people still unaccounted for. But local officials later said at a press conference that one person was rescued from the rubble overnight with five still missing, and that they could only confirm two people had been killed, not the five PEMA had reported.

“That is not accurate,” West Reading Mayor Samantha Kaag said of the PEMA figures.

“Everyone at RM Palmer is devastated by the tragic events at one of our West Reading facilities and we are focused on supporting our employees and their families,” the company said in a statement posted to its official Facebook.

“We have lost close friends and colleagues, and our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of all who have been impacted.”

Some residents in the immediate area were displaced, but no larger evacuations were ordered or are currently planned, as officials said there is no danger to those in the area, according to NBC 10 Philadelphia. Officials have also advised residents to stay at least one block away from the explosion to allow emergency workers access.

The company statement said its email, phone and other communications systems are down. “We are relying currently on first responders and disaster recovery organizations to provide any available information to impacted families. We will be providing additional information and making contact with employees, impacted families, and the community as soon as possible.”

A screenshot of smoke billowing from the site of an explosion at the R.M. Palmer factory in Reading, Pennsylvania.

A screenshot of video captured by WPVI-TV ABC 6.

WPVI-TV ABC 6 Philadelphia

West Reading Police Chief Wayne Holben said Saturday morning that someone was found alive in the wreckage  overnight, providing optimism that others could be found during the weekend. He said rescue efforts are ongoing.

During the press conference and on Twitter Saturday afternoon, Kaag said she had issued a declaration of emergency late Friday night to allow the quick gathering and use of resources to assist in the cleanup. The declaration does not mean any residents are in immediate danger, she said.

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro visited West Reading Saturday afternoon, and said his administration is here to provide “all the resources and support West Reading needs” as it recovers.

A Reading Hospital spokesperson told Insider via email that the hospital dispatched six ambulances to the factory and treated eight people from the blast Friday night. One was transferred to another facility, two were admitted to Reading Hospital in fair condition, and the other five were released.

Officials said the cause of the explosion is still being investigated, and a nearby building was moved by the force. The explosion was caught on camera at several angles, including one from Fox 29 Philadelphia’s weather camera.

The chocolate company has been a part of West Reading for decades since it was started by Richard M. Palmer in 1948. The factory buildings damaged by the explosion were built in the 1950s and ’60s, and the company employs about 850 employees and offers over 500 different products throughout the year, including dozens that are Easter and Halloween themed, according to a 2018 update on its website.


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