Wilbur Chocolate Factory Explosion, Death – Wilbur Chocolate Retail Store – According to authorities, an explosion at a chocolate factory in West Reading, Pa., on Friday killed four people and left three more missing. The explosion at the R.M. Palmer Co. plant just before 5 p.m. Friday destroyed one building and damaged another adjacent. The reason of the explosion is being investigated, according to Mayor Samantha Kaag. Rescuers continued to search for the other missing persons throughout the night, removing debris and employing canines, according to Police Chief Wayne Holben on Sunday. According to Holben, rescuers discovered one person alive on Saturday.
“We will not rest until every single person who has been affected by this tragedy has been identified,” Holben added. “I issued a declaration of emergency this morning at roughly 1 a.m. to assemble resources for the catastrophe,” Kaag said Saturday. “I’d like to address the borough’s inhabitants’ safety issues directly. This proclamation is solely for the purpose of gaining access to more resources for emergency responders.” According to Kaag, about eight persons were transferred to Reading Hospital on Friday evening. Officials were unable to provide any updates on their condition.
Individuals were told to move away from the bomb location, but no evacuations were ordered. Several occupants were relocated from a neighboring damaged apartment building. Officials announced the creation of a catastrophe relief fund to assist those affected by the incident at a press conference on Sunday. Some community organizations provide free bereavement counseling. Donations to the fund will benefit families who have lost loved ones or others who have been relocated as a result of the explosion, according to officials from the United Way of Berks County and the Berks County Community Foundation.
“That was the loudest sound I’ve ever heard in my life,” Kristen Wisniewski, who lives three streets away from the facility, told 6abc. “It truly seemed like the ground gave way beneath you. My dogs froze as the entire home shook. It was terrifying because they couldn’t move.” Since 1948, the company has produced “seasonal chocolate novelties,” and it employs 850 employees at its headquarters in West Reading, roughly 60 miles northwest of Philadelphia.
“R.M. Palmer has had a presence in the neighborhood for decades now,” West Reading Borough Council Vice President Phil Wert said on Saturday, supplying sweets to Easter egg hunts and volunteering in the community. He stated that it is the responsibility of first responders and government politicians to “give back to them because they have given to us.” “Everyone at R.M. Palmer is grieved,” the business said in a statement read aloud at the news conference on Sunday. “Our priority remains to support our employees and their families, and our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who has been affected.”