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Gov. Shapiro orders Pa. flags to half-staff for victims of chocolate factory explosion

Seven people perished in the blast, according to county officials. Two victims' names were released by the Berks County coroner Monday morning.

WEST READING, Pa. — Victims of a chocolate factory explosion on Friday in West Reading are being honored Monday by the state of Pennsylvania. Gov. Josh Shapiro has ordered the state flag lowered to half-staff on all commonwealth facilities, buildings, and grounds.

  • Gov. Josh Shapiro ordered state flags to half-mast Monday to honor victims killed in the West Reading chocolate factory explosion last week
  • Seven people perished in the blast, according to county officials. Two victims' names have been released by the Berks County coroner
  • A candlelight vigil is being planned for 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 31, for the West Reading and Reading communities

In posts to Twitter and Facebook, Shapiro expressed the commonwealth's support for the Berks County residents impacted by the blast.
"West Reading, we stand with you — and we'll continue to provide all of the support your community needs," Shapiro said.

Seven people perished in the explosion at the R.M. Palmer Company factory on Friday.

The Berks County Coroner's office has confirmed the names of two of the seven victims who died in the disaster. They are 49-year-old Amy Sandoe of Ephrata and 60-year-old Domingo Cruz of Reading.

Ten people were injured in the explosion and received treatment at Reading Hospital, according to hospital President Dr. Charles Barbera.

"Immediately after the explosion, Reading Hospital activated our external emergency preparedness plan in which we set up incident command under the leadership of our Chief Operating Officer Michelle Trupp and we prepared to accept patients," Barbera said in an afternoon news conference.

Of the 10 people who were injured, two were admitted to the hospital, and one of those patients was later transferred to a burn unit at another site.

    On Friday, the R.M. Palmer Co. chocolate factory saw an explosion that destroyed one building and damaged another. Emergency crews were at the site for over 36 hours — and an investigation into the cause is now underway.

    City officials said Monday that the search-and-rescue portion of the emergency response has officially ended, and they are now shifting to cleanup of the site as the investigation continues.

    The Pennsylvania State Police Troop L Fire Marshal is leading the probe into the cause and origin of the fire, and is working with multiple local, state and federal agencies in that effort.

    The Palmer factory is known for its chocolate Easter bunnies, and according to city officials, is known as a staple in the community of West Reading. In a news conference on Sunday, Mayor Samantha Kaag shared that the Palmer company would donate chocolate Easter bunnies for neighborhood scavenger hunts every year.

    Officials have not yet released the names the other five deceased victims — nor the one person who was found Saturday alive in the rubble.

    This is a developing story. It will be updated as more information becomes available.