Deadly Explosion at R.M. Palmer Co. in West Reading PA [Updated]

Updated October 9 with OSHA report- The NTSB has determined that a natural gas pipeline was involved in a deadly explosion at R.M. Palmer Co.’s chocolate factory in West Reading, PA on March 24. The blast killed seven people and injured 10 others. The coroner has released the names of the victims. They are:

  • Michael D. Breedy, 62, of Marion Township, PA
  • Diana M. Cedeno, 44, of Reading, PA
  • Domingo Cruz, 60, of Reading, PA
  • Susan H. Halvonik, 63, of Upper Providence Township, PA
  • Judith Lopez-Moran, 55, of Reading, PA
  • Xiorky D. Nunez, 30, of Reading, PA
  • Amy S. Sandoe, 49, of Ephrata, PA

Were You Injured in an Explosion?

R.M. Palmer employs 850 people at its plant in West Reading, located about 60 miles northwest of Philadelphia, where it makes seasonal candies such as hollow milk chocolate Easter bunnies. The explosion also damaged neighboring buildings and homes.

Five days after the explosion, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that a natural gas pipeline was involved in the explosion. It has opened a safety investigation.

Employees Smelled Gas Before the Explosion

Before the explosion, which occurred at around 5 p.m. on March 24, employees had been complaining about the smell of gas, according to reporting by WGAL and the Associated Press. Frank Gonzalez told reporters that his son and nephew worked at the plant, but his son quit a few months ago because he didn’t like the smell of gas. Gonzalez said both men complained to supervisors about the smell and were told that it was being handled and not to worry about it.

Palmer employee Arelis Rivera Santiago was working in a neighboring building when the explosion occurred. The ceiling caved in and crawled under machinery and debris to make her way to safety, her stepfather Frank DeJesus told reporters. He said that throughout the day his stepdaughter and other Palmer employees complained to supervisors about the smell of gas and were told not to worry about it and that it was being taken care of.

However, UGI spokesperson Joseph Swope told reporters that the company hadn’t received any calls regarding a gas leak or gas order before the incident.

OSHA: R.M. Plamer Failed to Evacuate Employees

On October 9, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that R. M. Palmer failed to evacuate employees after some reported smelling gas before the deadly March 2023 explosion.

The agency cited the company under its general duty clause for not evacuating workers, for not marking emergency exit signs clearly, for using flexible cords improperly, and for recordkeeping violations.

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Experienced Explosion Lawyers

The explosion attorneys at the national law firm Pritzker Hageman represent people who have been injured in explosions and the families of those who have suffered the wrongful death of a loved one. For a free consultation with our experienced Explosion Team, please call 1-888-377-8900, send a text to 612-261-0856, or complete the form below.

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Category: Explosion, Fire and Burn Injuries
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