On Friday, March 24th, disaster struck a factory building owned by R.M. Palmer in West Reading, a small town in eastern Pennsylvania. The candy company’s two-story building erupted into flames and clouds of black smoke as the blast rocked the neighborhood. At the time, 10 people were reportedly hospitalized with injuries due to the incident. Over the course of search and rescue operations following the explosion, seven bodies have been recovered. Authorities have stated that they believe all missing persons have been accounted for at this point. On March 27, Chief Wayne Holben of the West Reading Borough Police Department announced that search and rescue efforts have been officially concluded. As a precaution, three buildings around the site have been condemned.
The Pennsylvania chocolate factory spoke of the explosion in a statement distributed via its website:
“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,” read the statement in part. “We will continue to coordinate closely with local and national agencies to assist in the recovery process.”
R.M. Palmer employs about 850 people and manufactures seasonal chocolates one may recognize in stores during holidays like Christmas, Easter, and Halloween. Their factory in West Reading has been part of the community since the early 1960s.
West Reading copes with the aftermath of the factory explosion
West Reading Mayor Samantha Kaag noted that the White House reached out the day after the explosion to offer condolences and resources.
“…we are getting calls from numerous sources, and we’re grateful for all of them,” Kaag said. “We’re grateful for the resources that they’re offering. Right now we’re just kind of trying to get our feet on the ground and figure out where we can put them and how we can delegate them.”
On March 26, authorities announced that they are supporting families affected by the blast, people who were evacuated from their homes, and people who are unable to return to their places of employment by launching the West Reading Disaster Recovery Fund.
What caused the Pennsylvania chocolate factory explosion?
Investigations into potential causes or contributing factors to the Pennsylvania chocolate factory explosion are still ongoing. On March 26, Kaag stated that “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.” Authorities have noted that the cleanup of the site will likely be a lengthy and difficult process.
In an interview, Frankie Gonzalez, brother of one of the factory workers who went missing in the explosion, said that other workers had warned each other that they smelled natural gas in the factory and reported it to plant managers. Gonzalez also noted that his son and a nephew had also worked at the RM Palmer factory within the past year and had also reported that they smelled gas to their supervisors. A spokesman for UGI Utilities, an electric and natural gas company that serves West Reading and the surrounding communities, stated that the company is cooperating with investigation efforts.
What are the legal implications of the West Reading candy factory explosion?
As authorities are still determining the cause of the incident, it is unclear whether negligence on the part of R.M. Palmer contributed to the explosion of their factory. Wrongful death claims may arise, as well as catastrophic injury cases from the survivors. In the vicinity of the site, people have been displaced from their homes and businesses have been disrupted. As the investigations conclude, victims and their families will likely begin to file lawsuits.
Contact us today for a free case evaluation
Have you been impacted by the chocolate factory explosion in West Reading? If so, our personal injury lawyers’ expertise will be critical as you recover and try to move forward. We offer free consultations with our attorneys so that we can help you better understand your legal options and the strength of your case. For more information, call Pond Lehocky Giordano LLP at 1-800-568-7500 or fill out our contact form today.