The decade's most triggering comedy
On March 24, the R.M. Palmer Co. chocolate factory in West Reading, Pennsylvania, exploded, killing seven people and injuring ten others — but one worker, Patricia Borges, was saved after she fell into a vat of melted chocolate.
In an exclusive interview with the Associated Press, conducted from the hospital where Borges is being treated for injuries sustained during the blast, the worker told her incredible story.
At approximately 4:30 p.m. on the day of the explosion, Borges said that she smelled what she believed was natural gas. Borges told AP that she and several coworkers alerted a supervisor, who told them that a higher-up would have to make the call on a possible building evacuation. Less than 30 minutes later, the building exploded.
After the explosion, Borges’ arm caught fire. “I asked God why he was giving me such a horrible death. … I asked him to save me, that I didn’t want to die in the fire,” she told AP.
As Borges ran, the floor collapsed, and she landed in a vat of melted chocolate, which put out the fire on her body, but apparently broke bones in both of her feet.
Borges stood in the vat, up to her chest in chocolate. When firefighters arrived on scene, they began dousing the burning building with water, some of which filled the rest of the vat until Borges could no longer stand inside it.
After climbing out of the vat, she fell into a pool of water, swallowing some of it. Borges stayed in that water for hours, screaming for help, until a rescue dog identified her location for first responders.
Ken Pagurek, manager of emergency response team Pennsylvania Task Force 1, said that if Borges had not been rescued when she was, she might have also died.
Borges’ family has started a GoFundMe to help with medical costs incurred as a result of her injuries. Borges told AP that she wants accountability from the chocolate company, “For my colleague Judy, I want there to be justice.”
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has opened an investigation into the factory explosion.
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 state and federal authorities in their probe. In a statement, UGI offered “heartfelt condolences to the victims and all those impacted” by the explosion, and pledged to get to the bottom of what caused the incident, in conjunction with other authorities.
Leif Le Mahieu contributed to this report.