2 dead, 5 missing in explosion at Palmer candy factory; 1 survivor found

An explosion at a chocolate factory in Pennsylvania on Friday has killed two people and left five people missing, authorities said Saturday.

According to authorities, the explosion happened at the R.M. Palmer Company in West Reading at 4:57 p.m. EDT Friday.

Update 12:58 p.m. EDT March 25: One person was pulled from the rubble overnight, The Associated Press reported.

West Reading officials said Saturday they could confirm only two fatalities, the Reading Eagle reported. Earlier, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency said there were five fatalities, citing county emergency management officials. However, an update from county officials indicated that only two people had died, according to the newspaper.

Rescue workers picking through the rubble found the survivor, but no information was given about the person’s identity or their condition, the Eagle reported.

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

-- Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Update 10:01 a.m. EDT March 25: The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency confirmed the increase in the number of fatalities at a news conference on Saturday, according to the Reading Eagle. Officials initially said that two people had been killed and nine others were missing.

West Reading police Chief Wayne Holben said the explosion destroyed one building and damaged a neighboring structure, according to The Associated Press.

“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.”

Eight people were taken to Reading Hospital, a spokesperson told The New York Times. One of the patients was transferred to Lehigh Valley Hospital near Allentown, the spokesperson said. No other details were available, the Eagle reported.

The cause of the explosion is under investigation, Holben told reporters.

-- Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Original report: West Reading Borough Police Department Chief of Police Wayne Holben said the explosion destroyed a building at the facility and damaged a neighboring building. The cause of the explosion remains under investigation, Holden said during a press conference.

Local news reports say at least six people were transported to an area hospital. According to the Reading Eagle, debris from the explosion covered several roads in the area.

Tower Health spokeswoman Jessica Bezler told the AP that eight people were taken to Reading Hospital Friday evening. Two were admitted in fair condition and five were being treated and would be released, she said in an email.

Palmer’s is the oldest chocolate company in the United States to be continuously owned by the same family.

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