Third death reported in Pennsylvania chocolate factory explosion

The remains of a third apparent victim of a chocolate factory explosion in Pennsylvania were discovered at the site on Saturday, authorities in the borough of West Reading said.

The find brings to three the number of fatalities connected to Friday’s blast at R.M. Palmer Company, with four others unaccounted for more than 24 hours after the incident, West Reading Fire Chief Chad Moyer.

The timeline means the chances of finding survivors is decreasing rapidly, Moyer said.

However, other officials said a person was found alive overnight in the rubble, and the discovery suggests more survivors among the missing were possible.

A facility spokesperson said 10 people who survived with injuries were taken to Reading Hospital following the blast in the West Reading borough, an area of Berks County about 63 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

Two were transferred to other facilities, two were in good or fair condition at Reading Hospital, and the others were treated or checked out and released, officials said, according to NBC Philadelphia.

The elapsed time has not added to the public’s understanding of what happened. Moyer said local and state fire investigators were continuing to probe the cause of the explosion.

West Reading Mayor Samantha Kaag said the blast just before 5 p.m. Friday “leveled” the confection plant.

Richard M. Palmer Sr. founded the company in 1948, when he sold a handful of chocolates, including bunnies. R.M. Palmer Company employs 850 people today, according to the company’s website.

In a statement, the company expressed anguish, said it has lost “close friends and colleagues,” and said it was trying to reach out to employees despite email and phone failure after the blast.

“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,” the company said.

Kurt Chirbas contributed.

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