Candy factory explosion: Death toll rises to 7

WEST READING, Pa. — Crews recovered a seventh body after an explosion at a chocolate factory on Friday in Pennsylvania, authorities said.

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Update 10 a.m. EDT March 27: The confirmed death toll from Friday’s explosion at the R.M. Palmer Company building has risen to seven.

West Reading Police Chief Wayne Holben said at a press conference that one person had been found alive overnight in the rubble.

-- Debbie Lord, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Update 10:24 a.m. EDT March 26: West Reading Borough Chief of Police Wayne Holben said during a news conference on Sunday that a fourth body was found in the rubble of the R.M. Palmer Company and that three people were still unaccounted for.

“I want to assure you all that we will not rest until every person has been accounted for,” Holben said. “West Reading, we have your back and we will get this done.”

Original report: The death toll rose to three and four people remained missing at the site of the explosion at the R.M. Palmer Company in West Reading, the Reading Eagle reported.

West Reading Borough Chief of Police Wayne Holben announced the third death on Saturday, and the Berks County Medical Examiner and Coroner on Saturday night also confirmed that number, according to The Associated Press.

Crews pulled one survivor from the debris on Saturday. While the search continues, officials said that the amount of time that has passed since the explosion has dimmed hopes of crews finding more survivors, WGAL-TV reported.

“Due to the violence of the explosion and the amount of time that has passed, the chance of finding survivors is decreasing rapidly,” West Reading Borough fire Chief Chad Moyer said. “However, please be assured that our primary goal is accounting for all missing individuals and reuniting them with their loved ones.”

Moyer said that crews from local fire departments, emergency medical agencies, police departments and the state search and rescue task force will continue working at the scene looking for victims, the Eagle reported. Local and state fire investigators are also working to determine what caused the explosion, according to the newspaper.

Palmer’s is the oldest chocolate company in the United States to be continuously owned by the same family.

The explosion destroyed one building and damaged a neighboring structure, according to the AP. Roads near the site will remain closed until Monday at 8 a.m. EDT, Holben told reporters

“It’s pretty leveled,” West Reading Mayor Samantha Kaag said of the explosion site. “The building in the front, with the church and the apartments, the explosion was so big that it moved that building four feet forward.”

Officials will update reporters in a 10 a.m. EDT news conference on Sunday, WGAL reported.

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