The National Transportation Safety Board has opened an investigation into the explosion last week at a Pennsylvania chocolate factory that left several people dead.
The explosion, which occurred on March 24 at the R.M. Palmer Company chocolate factory in West Reading, Pennsylvania, led to the deaths of seven individuals and the hospitalization of 10 others.
Keith Holloway, a spokesman for the NTSB, told the Associated Press that the agency is looking at “what caused, how and why the explosion occurred.” Government officials believe a natural gas pipeline nearby is linked to the explosion.
UGI Utilities, a gas and electric provider, is working with the state and federal authorities in their probe.
“UGI expresses its heartfelt condolences to the victims and all those impacted by the tragic event at R.M. Palmer Company in West Reading on March 24, 2023. As a public utility, UGI is committed to the well-being of Berks County and all the communities we serve,” the company said in a statement Tuesday.
“UGI Utilities knows that it is the Company’s responsibility to safely and reliably serve our customers. We take our responsibility seriously, and we are working with local authorities and state and federal agencies to determine the cause of the incident on March 24, 2023,” the statement continued.
The company also announced it would donate $100,000 to the West Reading Disaster Recovery Fund.
Two victims have been named while the Berks County coroner’s office continues identifying the others killed in the blast. Amy Sandoe, 49, and Domingo Cruz, 60, died during Friday’s explosion.
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“The seven who we lost will always be in our prayers, and to those who were injured we wish a speedy recovery. Over the many years that we have worked together many became personal friends and all valued members of the Palmer team. Their loss will be felt forever,” the owners of the chocolate factory said in a statement.
As a result of the explosion, the area around the factory will be closed to the public while police investigate and public safety officials evaluate the damage.
“It will involve the removal of debris, clearing the area and making sure that buildings are safe to occupy,” Police Chief Wayne Holben said. “We are closely working with emergency response teams, environmental experts, and construction professionals to ensure that the cleanup is done safely, efficiently, and with minimal impact on the surrounding community.”