Pennsylvania chocolate factory explosion: Bodies of last two victims found as toll rises to seven
WEST READING, PENNSYLVANIA: Altogether seven people have reportedly died after a deadly explosion at a chocolate factory in Pennsylvania on Friday afternoon, March 24. West Reading Borough Chief of Police Wayne Holben has confirmed that the last two bodies have been found after searches in the rubble at the RM Palmer plant, about 60 miles northwest of Philadelphia. It is believed no further victims are in the wreckage.
"We are still waiting for the coroner to confirm the remaining individuals' identities, but we do believe them to be the remaining presumptive missing individuals," Holben said, according to the Daily Mail. Mayor Samantha Kaag said that the victims' names will be released only after their families have been notified. While 10 people sustained injuries and were hospitalized, six of them have been discharged, CBS News reported.
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R.M. Palmer is a confectionery company that operates a large factory building in West Reading, where the explosion took place. All the deceased have been found but they were not immediately identified. A woman named Diana Cedeno, who was working at the plant at the time of the tragedy, is missing, but it has not been confirmed if she is among the victims.
'We are still working diligently'
Kaag wrote in a recent Facebook post, "We are still working diligently behind the scenes - please utilize us for resources if you were affected - I truly mean it when I say I am so proud of the community, the county, and I am so honored to be the Mayor of West Reading. The investigation efforts will now be under way and we can find answers to how this happened and how/if we can prevent it from happening in the future. Please be patient and respectful as we work with the county to get the families information, closure, and resources for now and the foreseeable future."
Earlier, the mayor thanked those who donated food and drinks. "To those of you that have donated food and drinks- we thank you, greatly. To those looking to donate food and drinks, please hold off as we have a decent amount. Send me a private message so that I can add you to the list of contacts when needed - We appreciate it greatly. Please, utilize this page & Council President Ryan Lineaweaver as sources of information & direction to relief efforts. ** I will absolutely post and/or contact those who have reached out when we could use more resources**," she wrote as part of a post.
'Everyone at RM Palmer is devastated'
Meanwhile, R.M. Palmer issued a statement after the tragedy, writing, "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. We have lost close friends and colleagues, and our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of all who have been impacted. We are sincerely grateful for the extraordinary efforts of all of the first responders and for the support of our Reading community, which has been home to our business for more than 70 years. We will continue to coordinate closely with local and national agencies to assist in the recovery process."
"We are anxious to be in touch with all employees and the families of employees who have been impacted, but the company's email, phones, and other communication systems are down, and therefore 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," it added.
A GoFundMe has now been set up to help the victims' families. "The community of West Reading and surrounding areas has suffered heartbreaking loss after an explosion of a very well known chocolate factory, that supplied jobs and joy since the 1940’s. This fund is to help support the victims and their families and all monies will be given to R.M. Palmer for distribution," the page read. At the time this article was written, $450 had been raised of the $110,000 goal.