WEST READING, Pa. (AP) — A fourth person was confirmed dead and three people remained missing Sunday, two days after a powerful explosion at a chocolate factory rocked a small Pennsylvania town.
West Reading Borough Police Chief Wayne Holben confirmed the body of a fourth victim was found under debris early Sunday at the RM Palmer Co. factory in the Borough of West Reading, about 60 miles northwest of Philadelphia.
Holben asked for continued prayers from the community and vowed that rescuers and officials ‘will not rest until everyone affected by this tragedy is accounted for’ from the explosion that occurred just before 5 p.m. Friday.
Rescue teams used thermal imaging equipment and dogs to search for possible survivors after the blast destroyed a building and damaged a nearby building. Crews were now using heavy equipment to methodically and carefully extract debris from the site, Holben said.
Borough Fire Chief Chad Moyer said late Saturday that the chances of finding survivors were “diminishing rapidly” due to the force of the blast and the passage of time. Mayor Samantha Kaag said officials were “still hoping to at least get answers and recoveries so people have that assurance and closure.”
“We’re just trying to keep as much hope as possible to get the right answers, to get quality answers, to provide information to those who are affected, and then let the investigation pass,” Kaag said.
Officials said they had no update on the condition of a woman pulled alive from the rubble early Saturday. Kaag said she was apparently on the second floor and was found in a “hopeful circumstance”, calling for rescuers despite her injuries after a dog located her.
Officials also did not report any updates on the conditions of those being taken to hospitals. Reading Hospital said it received 10 patients and transferred two to other facilities, while two others were admitted in good and fair condition respectively and the others were discharged.
RM Palmer said in a statement Saturday afternoon that everyone in the company was “devastated” and that it was reaching out to employees and their families through first responders and disaster recovery organizations because its systems communications were down.
Kaag, a volunteer firefighter herself, said rescue teams were working shifts from 12 to 4 p.m. and were so determined to continue the search that “you have to pull them away at this point” to swap and rest.
Governor Josh Shapiro visited the site Saturday and pledged state support.
Kaag said some residents reported window damage from the blast, and she asked people to “go around your house” and report any damage.
State and local fire investigators continue to examine the scene in an attempt to determine the cause of the explosion.
The Huffington Gt