State Watch

Chocolate factory explosion death toll rises to 4

In this screen grab from video provided by WPVI-TV/6ABC, smoke rises from an explosion at the R.M. Palmer Co. plant in West Reading, Pa., Friday, March 24, 2023. (WPVI-TV/6ABC via AP)

A fourth individual was confirmed dead just two days after a powerful explosion occurred at the R.M. Palmer Co. plant in West Reading, Pennsylvania, according to local authorities.

West Reading Police Department (WRPD) chief Wayne Holben said on Sunday that authorities found the fourth victim under debris at the chocolate factory. 

Holben said that first responders have been using heat imaging equipment and dogs to search for possible survivors of the factory explosion, noting that crews were using heavy equipment to pull debris from the area. 

Three people remain unaccounted for after the explosion. Ten victims were transported to Reading Hospital in the aftermath of the accident, as the hospital transferred two others to nearby medical facilities. Most of them were discharged by Sunday.

In a statement, R.M. Palmer expressed its condolences for those who lost loved ones in the accident, adding that the company “will continue to coordinate closely with local and national agencies to assist in the recovery process.” 

Though West Reading Fire Department (WFPD) chief Chad Moyer said that the chance of finding survivors is “decreasing rapidly” due to the explosion’s force and the amount of time that has passed, West Reading Mayor Samantha Kaag said officials are still hoping to get some “answers” and “recoveries” in the next couple of days. 

“We’re just trying to hold out as much hope as we can to get the right answers, to get quality answers, to get information to those that are affected and then let it go over to the investigation,” Kaag said in a statement.

The Hill has reached out to the West Reading Police Department and the West Reading Fire Department for comment and more information on the matter. 

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