Updated Mar 27, 2023 - Politics & Policy

7 dead after Pennsylvania chocolate factory explodes

Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Seven people are believed dead after an explosion at a Berks County candy factory in Pennsylvania on Friday after local officials said Sunday night they had recovered more bodies.

State of play: West Reading Mayor Samantha Kaag (D) announced a state of emergency on Saturday in response to the explosion "to access more resources for emergency services and first responders on-scene."

  • Kaag said in a statement on Sunday night following search and rescue operations that "all seven presumptive missing" had been found.
  • "Please understand that this is still a devastating loss, but we are truly grateful to bring closure to the families involved in the upcoming days," Kaag added.

Driving the news: Officials are investigating the cause of the explosion at R.M. Palmer Company, a chocolate candy maker in West Reading, which sent several people to local hospitals and covered the street with rubble when it occurred on Friday evening.

  • "The building in the front, with the church and the apartments — the explosion was so big that it moved that building four feet forward," Kaag said at a press conference on Friday night.
  • Ten patients were initially transported to Reading Hospital, according to spokesperson Jessica Bezler. Two of those were later transferred to other hospitals.
  • Two patients "have been admitted and are in good and fair condition, and the others have been discharged," Bezler said in a statement to Axios on Saturday.
  • Several residents of a damaged apartment building have been displaced.
  • West Reading Police Chief Wayne Holben noted Saturday morning that one person was found alive in rubble overnight as the search continued in "hope that others still may be found."

What they're saying: "It is always difficult to come to terms with such sudden and unexpected events," Kaag said in a statement Friday night. "Our deepest sympathies are with the families and friends of those who have been affected."

  • Sen. Judy Schwank (D), who represents the county, said in a statement Saturday, "This is an extremely difficult situation — unlike any I can recall us dealing with here in Berks County in recent memory."

The big picture: R.M. Palmer Company was established in 1948 and specializes in crafting holiday chocolates.

  • Roughly 850 employees worked in its West Reading headquarters to send out its 500-plus products, according to the company.
  • Representatives did not immediately return a request for comment.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional developments.

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