the Governor of Pennsylvania It ordered Commonwealth flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of seven people whose bodies were recovered from the site of a powerful explosion at a chocolate factory.
“West Reading, we stand with you – and will continue to provide all the support your community needs,” Gov. Josh Shapiro said in a tweet Monday, referring to the town about 60 miles northwest of Philadelphia where the RM Palmer Company plant explosion occurred at about an hour 5 p.m. Friday.
West Reading Mayor Samantha Kaag, in a statement Sunday night, called it a “devastating loss” but said “we are truly grateful for the families involved being closed in the days ahead.”
The Berks County Coroner’s Office on Monday morning identified two of the victims as 49-year-old Amy Sandow and 60-year-old Domingo Cruz of Reading and said “additional forensic examinations” were needed to positively identify the five other victims. victims. Officials said the autopsies are expected to be completed by the end of the week.
West Riding Borough Chief of Police Wayne Holben He said in a press briefing just after 9 p.m. on Sunday that early in the evening rescue workers had found two bodies believed to be the two remaining people listed as missing. Holben said one of the victims was found around 6:50 p.m. and the other around 8:20 p.m. Earlier, Kaag confirmed to the Associated Press that the fifth body was found Sunday morning. Holben said the body of a fourth victim was found under the rubble early Sunday morning.
Rescue teams were using thermal imaging equipment and dogs to search for possible survivors afterwards The explosion destroyed one building and damaged an adjacent building. Holben said work crews were using heavy equipment to methodically and carefully haul debris from the site.
Three buildings around the site will be condemned as a precaution, Kaag said, but that does not mean they are uninhabitable or slated for demolition, only that they will need further scrutiny by structural engineers.
Officials said they had no update on the condition of a woman who was pulled alive from the rubble early Saturday morning. Kaag said she was apparently on the second floor and was found in a “hopeful circumstance,” and was calling out to rescuers despite her injuries after being found by a dog.
Officials also reported a lack of updates on the conditions of those hospitalized. Reading Hospital said it had admitted 10 patients and transferred two to other facilities, while two others were admitted in good and fair condition respectively and the others were discharged.
RM Palmer said in a statement Saturday that everyone at the company was “devastated” and that it was reaching out to employees and their families through first responders and disaster recovery organizations because its communication systems were down.
State and local fire investigators continue to examine the site to try to determine the cause of the explosion.