Factory Fire 6420817f05240

Seven Dead, Several Hospitalized After Explosion at Candy-Maker R.M. Palmer Co.

March 25, 2023
A March 24 explosion tore apart one of the production buildings of the chocolate-maker northwest of Philadelphia.

This was updated on March 27.

To read how falling into a vat of chocolate saved one worker, click here.

The death toll has risen to seven, all workers are now accounted for but several remain hospitalized in the wake of a March 24 explosion that tore apart one of the production buildings of chocolate-maker R.M. Palmer Co. in West Reading, Pa., 60 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

Rescue efforts continued overnight Friday and Saturday, and the original death toll of two has been updated several times over the weekend as bodies were pulled from the rubble. On Sunday night, officials announced they had found the last missing body in the debris and had ended their search.

One media report said 10 people had been taken to hospitals. There was no word on their conditions, although some had been treated and released. 

As of Monday morning, the cause was not determined, although one media report quoted a relative of one of the employees who said workers had smelled natural gas in recent days. Rescue crews used heat imaging equipment and dogs to search for possible survivors, and heavy equipment was removing debris from the site.

The explosion, which occurred at 4:57pm Friday, March 24, destroyed the company’s Building One and heavily damaged Building Two. R.M. Palmer Co. has been making candy since 1948, specializing in “chocolaty” and “chocolate-flavored” holiday items. It employs 850 people. We’ll update this story as soon as we get more information.

About the Author

Dave Fusaro | Editor in Chief

Dave Fusaro has served as editor in chief of Food Processing magazine since 2003. Dave has 30 years experience in food & beverage industry journalism and has won several national ASBPE writing awards for his Food Processing stories. Dave has been interviewed on CNN, quoted in national newspapers and he authored a 200-page market research report on the milk industry. Formerly an award-winning newspaper reporter who specialized in business writing, he holds a BA in journalism from Marquette University. Prior to joining Food Processing, Dave was Editor-In-Chief of Dairy Foods and was Managing Editor of Prepared Foods.

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