According to WESH 2 News, residents of Easton were left in shock after an explosion at the R.M. Palmer Building Two leveled the structure and caused significant damage to Building One at 77 S 2nd Ave, West Reading, PA 19611.
Just before 5 p.m. Friday, March 24, 2023, an explosion left at least 10 people injured and seven dead. Three neighboring structures, including the C&S Medical Supply, Palmer Building #1, an apartment building, and a church, are possibly being condemned due to the blast.
State and local fire investigators are continuing to examine the scene to try to determine the cause of the blast, and UGI Utilities has brought in crews to address damage from the blast that released gas at the site. Witnesses have reported smelling gas prior to the explosion, and many have reported that plant supervisors had dismissed their complaints claiming it "was being taken care of." One witness stated that his son quit a few months ago due to the gas smell at the factory.
The mayor's office has released a statement saying that no names of identified victims will be released until their families have been contacted and they have had time to process the news. The incident has left the community in shock, and officials are now focusing on how to prevent similar occurrences in the future.
According to AP News, federal safety investigators have confirmed that a powerful explosion, which resulted in the leveling of one building, heavy damage to another, and the loss of seven lives, was caused by a natural gas leak stemming from a defective fitting. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released an investigative update on Tuesday, shedding light on the potential causes behind the devastating blast.
According to the NTSB's findings, the gas leak originated from one of two fittings at the chocolate factory. The first leak was traced back to a gas fitting that had been installed in 1982. Investigators discovered that this particular fitting had fractured, leading to the release of natural gas that eventually triggered the explosion. The second leak was detected in a newer fitting that had been installed in 2021.
The NTSB report highlighted that the older fitting, manufactured by DuPont, had been flagged as having a known tendency to crack and had been added to a federal government list of pipe materials with "poor performance histories" in 2007. Despite its history of problems, the defective fitting was not replaced during utility work carried out two years prior to the incident. UGI, the natural gas provider for the factory complex, has denied any utility work in the area and asserted that there were no indications of a sudden surge in gas usage before the explosion occurred.
Safety investigators further discovered that UGI had replaced a service line at the Palmer plant in 2021. However, instead of replacing the 1982 service tee, which was linked to the faulty DuPont piping, the company kept it connected to the system and fully pressurized. This oversight, according to attorney Andrew Duffy, who represents survivors and families of the victims, indicates that UGI was well aware of the dangerous nature of the DuPont piping but chose to leave it in place despite its potential risks.
Attorney contributor Brian Kent is a gas explosion lawyer based in Pennsylvania who specializes in representing people who have been hurt in fires or explosions. Brian recently explained the legal rights available for victims injured or killed in gas explosions.
"Company owners have a duty to maintain safe working conditions in the factory. This duty includes ensuring that all gas lines in the factory are up to par and any gas leaks are detected and fixed immediately. The gas company also has a duty to ensure that the gas lines in the factory are up to par and safe, and any gas leaks are detected and fixed."
"The tragic events of a gas explosion at a factory are an example of the devastating consequences that can occur when safety regulations are not adequately followed. The company owner must maintain safe working conditions and take proactive measures to ensure the safety of their employees. This includes ensuring the gas company has inspected and maintained the gas lines and that no gas leaks are detected."
"In the event of a gas explosion, those injured have legal rights to seek compensation for damages. This could include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and, in some cases, punitive damages. Additionally, surviving family members may have legal rights to seek compensation in the event of the death of a factory worker due to a gas explosion. In cases of wrongful death, surviving family members may be able to recover compensation for funeral and burial costs, loss of love and support, and other damages."
"It is important for victims and their families to seek legal counsel to help them pursue their rights and potential claims. An experienced attorney can evaluate the facts of the case, assess the potential claims, and help the victims and their families seek the justice they deserve."