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West Reading chocolate factory explosion: Company owners issue statement

The owners of the West Reading chocolate factory that exploded Friday expressed grief and gratefulness in a statement released Wednesday.

The blast at the R.M. Palmer Co. plant on South Second Avenue claimed the lives of seven people. The explosion happened just before 5 p.m. Friday, and rescue workers worked around the clock over the weekend at the scene, rescuing one survivor from the rubble.

A statement issued Wednesday morning and signed “Richard M. Palmer and family” reads:

My family and I are deeply saddened and heartbroken by the devastating loss of several colleagues and friends as a result of last week’s tragic incident at the West Reading facility.

The seven who we lost will always be in our prayers, and to those who were injured we wish a speedy recovery. Over the many years that we have worked together many became personal friends and all valued members of the Palmer team. Their loss will be felt forever.

We are so grateful for the outpouring of support from the West Reading community, Tower Health, government officials and first responders who have worked tirelessly since the incident occurred. We are also appreciative of the many offers of assistance from fellow members of the confectionery industry.

We send our love and support to the entire Palmer team led by Mark Schlott, who has always worked tirelessly to build “Palmer Strong.”

The cause of the blast has still not been determined. It was announced Monday that state police are heading up the investigation into the cause and origin of the explosion.

The National Transportation Safety Board is also looking into the blast, announcing their involvement in a tweet and indicating that natural gas was the cause.

“The NTSB has opened a safety investigation into the March 24 natural gas explosion and fire at the RM Palmer Company Chocolate factory in West Reading, PA,” the board posted on Twitter Tuesday.

An official from the NTSB said Wednesday that the NTSB has opened an “independent safety investigation” into the explosion.

“NTSB investigates all modes of transportation,” said Keith Holloway, a spokesmen for the NTSB. “A pipeline is considered a form of transportation that carries products.”

Holloway said the chocolate factory explosion case preliminary information shows that the blast was related to a pipeline that was carrying natural gas. That assumption could change as the investigation moves forward, he said.

“It is still very early in the investigation and information is still being gathered,” Holloway said.

Holloway said the NTSB investigation will focus on how and why the explosion occurred. He added that NTSB investigation can take 12 to 14 months to complete, but that it is possible a preliminary report may be posted on the NTSB website in as little as 15 to 30 days.

UGI officials said they are cooperating with all investigators.

“We take our responsibility seriously, and we are working with local authorities and state and federal agencies to determine the cause of the incident on March 24, 2023,” a statement released Tuesday reads.

UGI officials also said that they did not receive any calls about a gas odor or gas leak at the Palmer plant before the explosion.

Source: Berkshire mont

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