Giant Explosion At Factory 

( The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced on Tuesday that it was investigating whether a natural gas pipeline may have caused Friday’s fatal blast at a chocolate factory in West Reading, Pennsylvania, the Associated Press reported. 

The explosion at R.M. Palmer Company last Friday killed seven people, injured ten others, and damaged several neighboring buildings. 

Late Tuesday afternoon, the NTSB described the incident as a natural gas explosion. Based on preliminary information from local authorities and UGI, the natural gas utility company, NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway told the Associated Press that a gas pipeline was involved. Holloway said the NTSB is looking into what caused the blast and why it occurred. 

Some workers reportedly told relatives that they could smell natural gas before the explosion occurred, however, UGI said it received no reports of a gas leak. 

UGI spokesman Joe Swope said on Tuesday that the utility company is cooperating with authorities investigating the blast. 

The explosion occurred just before 5:00 pm on Friday, ripping through the building and sending flames, smoke, and debris hundreds of feet into the air. The blast destroyed R.M. Palmer’s Building #2 and damaged Building #1. Two other neighboring buildings were also damaged. 

On Saturday, rescue workers with K-9s and a team of structural engineers began searching the rubble for bodies. By Sunday night, the death toll had climbed to seven as all of the people previously missing had been found. 

CBS News reported that ten people were hospitalized for injuries sustained in the blast and six of them had already been discharged by Sunday 

In a statement posted on its Facebook page on Saturday, R.M. Palmer Company said it was “devastated” by the tragedy and offered prayers for the families of those killed and injured in the blast. 

The company, which makes seasonal chocolates for Christmas, Easter, and Halloween, employs around 850 people. The West Reading factory has been open since the early 1960s.