Death toll rises to 4 in Pennsylvania chocolate factory explosion; 3 remain missing

The death toll from last week’s Pennsylvania chocolate factory explosion has risen to four, and three people remained unaccounted for, officials said Sunday.

Rescue workers found a fourth body beneath debris at an R.M. Palmer Co. building in West Reading early Sunday, police said at a news conference.

“We ask for your continued prayers for all involved,” said West Reading’s police chief, Wayne Holben. “I want to assure you all that we will not rest until every single person affected by this tragedy has been accounted for. We are fully committed to this task and we will do everything in our power to ensure that we will bring closure to all those involved.”

Investigators are working to determine what caused the explosion, which occurred Friday afternoon. West Reading is located about 60 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

A spokeswoman confirmed Reading Hospital received 10 patients, including one in good condition and another in fair condition. One person was transferred to a different facility and the rest were released. Officials did not have an update Sunday on the hospitalized victims.

Crews began their search efforts using heat imaging equipment and drones, Holben said.

“Now, we are using heavy equipment to methodically pull debris away from the site to make sure we are taking as much care as possible for individuals that are still inside,” he said.

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro surveyed the site Saturday, while R.M. Palmer says the company is “devastated” by the deadly explosion.

“Our focus remains supporting our employees and their families, and our thoughts and prayers are with all those impacted,” R.M. Palmer said in a statement read Sunday by Mayor Samantha Kaag, who also volunteers as a firefighter. “We are truly grateful for the extraordinary efforts of all the first responders and emergency personnel and we appreciate the tremendous outpouring of support from our local community.”