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March 25, 2023

At least two dead after chocolate factory explosion in West Reading, police say

RM Palmer Company buildings were severely destroyed following a fiery blast around 5 p.m. Friday. One person was found alive and another five are unaccounted for

Investigations Explosions
chocolate factory explosion Reading Hiroshi Kimura/

At least two people are dead after an explosion at the RM Palmer Company chocolate factory in West Reading. Another five people are unaccounted for, police say.

At least two people were killed in an explosion at a Berks County chocolate factory, West Reading police said.

Several news outlets reported a fire explosion at RM Palmer Company chocolate factory in West Reading around 5 p.m., destroyed one building and caused severe damage to another at the factory about an hour's drive from Philadelphia.

One person was found alive, and another five people are unaccounted for, according to police, 6ABC reported.

Eight people were taken to Reading Hospital after the explosion; one was transferred, two were admitted in fair condition, and the rest were released, a spokesperson told the New York Times. 

A video from FOX29 shows the explosion as flames, dust, and rubble from the building shot into the air. 

"It's pretty leveled. Unfortunately, there's not too much to be able to salvage from it," West Reading Mayor Samantha Kaag told 6ABC. "In the front, with the church and the apartments, the explosion was so big that it moved that building four feet forward."

The cause of the explosion has not been determined and is under investigation, police said. 

RM Palmer is a chocolate factory that opened in 1948, according to its website. It is best known for its seasonal chocolates, including milk chocolate Easter bunnies. Palmer's produces 500 products from its West Reading factory – making it one of America's largest confectioners.

This story was updated as information was provided. West Reading Police clarified  only two confirmed deaths, not five as was previously reported