R.M. Palmer Workers Smelled Gas Before Fatal Explosion

May 3, 2023
National Transportation Safety Board confirms reports of a possible gas leak in fatal explosion and fire.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) called the March 24 fatal incident at R.M. Palmer Co. in West Reading, Pa., “a natural gas-fueled explosion and fire” in a preliminary report released late yesterday (May 2).

The long-awaited report confirms that employees in two buildings of the chocolate-maker smelled natural gas minutes before the explosion in Building 2 that killed seven people and injured 11 more.

“At the time of the explosion, about 35 office staff and 70 production employees were working in both buildings,” the NTSB wrote. “Palmer employees from Building 2 recalled that they were sanitizing equipment in the building when they detected an odor of natural gas. The employees in Building 1 recalled the smell of rotten eggs around the same time.”

Minutes later, Building 2 exploded and a fire resulted. Seven died and many were buried under the rubble for days.

UGI Corp., which supplies natural gas service to the Palmer buildings, told NTSB said there was no known work on either of two gas mains adjacent to the accident site and no pressure spike in gas usage before the explosion.

NTSB said it will continue to investigate the incident. West Reading officials told local media it could take up to two years for the full investigation to conclude.

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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