(UnitedVoice.com) – Workplace accidents are not uncommon in the United States. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows there were 5,190 fatalities as a result of workplace injuries in 2021. There were more than 2.6 million injuries and illnesses reported by employers that year, as well. Though accidents are common, mass casualty events are not. That’s what happened in a tiny Pennsylvania town recently.
Tragedy in America
On Friday, March 24, the R.M. Palmer Company chocolate factory buzzed with activity. Since 1948, the factory has been making seasonal chocolate novelties. With Easter just a couple of weeks away, employees were busy making hollow bunnies and chocolate eggs. Around 5 p.m., an explosion rocked the building and those around it.
Emergency responders arrived on the scene and transported 10 patients to Reading Hospital. Police reported two people were dead, and nine were missing. The next day, WGAL reported Police Chief Wayne Holben said a woman was found in the building alive, and another person was found deceased.
On Sunday, Holben reported another person was found dead, three were still missing. By Monday, those three were also found deceased, and the search was ended. In total, seven people died in the explosion at the chocolate factory.
According to The New York Times, the explosion flattened R.M. Palmer Building Two and severely damaged Building One. At least three buildings were condemned because of damage to the structures, including Building One.
Warnings Before the Explosion?
Officials have not released a cause for the explosion. They are carrying out an investigation to get to the bottom of it. However, Frankie Gonzalez was waiting to hear news about his sister, Diana Cedeno, in the days after the accident when he spoke to the Times. He said that he’d spoken to other workers who allegedly told him they’d smelled gas before the explosion. The workers reportedly said they told supervisors about the smell but were brushed off.
CBS News reported on a press conference held by officials on Monday. They said there will be a “difficult and lengthy” cleanup in the coming days and weeks. The Pennsylvania State Police are the ones leading the investigation, but multiple agencies are involved.
The Berks County Coroner’s Office identified two of the victims, 60-year-old Domingo Cruz and 49-year-old Amy Sandoe. The other five were not named as of Tuesday afternoon. West Reading Mayor Samantha Kaag said her focus is now on the “families and those affected to get them the resources” they need.
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