Third death reported in explosion at Palmer candy factory; 4 still missing

WEST READING, PENNSYLVANIA — The explosion at the R.M. Palmer Company chocolate factory in West Reading, Pennsylvania, has officially killed three people with four still missing.

>> PREVIOUS COVERAGE: 2 dead, 5 missing in explosion at Palmer candy factory; 1 survivor found

News Center 7 previously reported that an explosion happened at the confectionery manufacturing factory at around 4:55 p.m. Friday, March 24. The explosion destroyed a building at the facility and damaged a neighboring one.

“It’s pretty leveled,” Mayor Samantha Kaag said of the explosion site. “The building in the front, with the church and the apartments, the explosion was so big that it moved that building 4 feet forward.”

As the initial search went underway, two people were confirmed dead and nine were missing. Eight others were taken to Reading Hospital, while one was then transferred to Lehigh Valley Hospital near Allentown. By Sunday, 10 people were hospitalized due to the explosion.

On Saturday, rescue crews found and saved one person from the rubble overnight. No information was given about the person’s identity or their condition

“The discovery provides hope that others may still be found,” West Reading police Chief Wayne Holben said during a news conference later Saturday.

However, that hope quickly faded when Fire Chief Chad Moyer confirmed a third death discovered in the wreckage.

“Due to the violence of the explosion and the amount of time that has passed, the chance of finding survivors is decreasing rapidly,” Moyer said.

“Crews are continuing their diligent effort in sifting through the debris in order to locate any additional individuals,” Holben said.

First responders, both officers and firefighters, worked with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency to find anyone still trapped, especially the four people still unaccounted for.

Surrounding road remained closed until 8 a.m. each day to allow for search and rescue crews to operate.

The cause of the explosion still remained under investigation.

Comments on this article