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It wasn’t the news that West Reading Police Chief Wayne Holben wanted to share.
As he stood in front of a row of television news cameras set up inside the boardroom at borough hall Saturday night, he spoke with a somber tone. Rescue crews sifting through the rubble of a chocolate plant that exploded Friday evening had found another lifeless body among the debris, he told the journalists gathered for a press conference.
The grim news brought the total death toll from the blast at R.M. Palmer Co. on South Second Avenue to three.
Holben said he knew it was not the update anyone wanted to hear, particularly after he was able to report earlier in the day that a survivor had been pulled from the piles of twisted metal, broken concrete and splintered wood in the early morning hours Saturday.
“We would like to express our deepest sympathies,” he said.
There are still four people believed to have been at the plant when it exploded who are still unaccounted for, West Reading Fire Chief Chad Moyer said during Saturday night’s press conference. Speaking just after 9 p.m., he said that, unfortunately, with more than 24 hours having passed since the explosion that rocked the borough, finding any further survivors is becoming more and more unlikely.
Despite that, rescue crews were set to continue working through the night.
“Due to the violence of the explosion and the amount of time that has passed, the chance of finding survivors is decreasing rapidly,” Moyer said. “However, please be assured that our primary goal is accounting for all missing individuals and reuniting them with their loved ones.”
Moyer said that crews from local fire departments, EMS agencies, police departments and the state search and rescue task force will continue to work at the scene looking for victims. Local and state fire investigators are also working diligently to determine what caused the catastrophic event.
Holben said that the ongoing work at the scene will mean roads in the area that have been shut down since the blast will continue to be closed through at least 8 a.m. Monday.
Reading Hospital also provided an update Saturday night about patients from the blast who were rushed the few short blocks to its emergency department.
A hospital spokeswoman said that a total of 10 patients were transported to Reading Hospital. One of them was transferred to Lehigh Valley Hospital and one was transferred to Penn St. Health St. Joseph hospital. Six patients have been discharged, and two have been admitted.
One of the patients admitted at Reading Hospital was listed in fair condition and the other was in good condition, the spokesperson said. Information on the conditions of the patients who were transferred to other hospitals was not immediately available.
Borough officials have scheduled another press conference at 10 a.m. Sunday to provide updates on the evolving situation.
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