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Cause of West Reading candy factory explosion still unknown, officials say

Cause of deadly explosion at West Reading candy factory still under investigation
Cause of deadly explosion at West Reading candy factory still under investigation 01:07

WEST READING, Pa. (CBS) -- The cause of the explosion at a West Reading candy factory last week that left seven people dead remains under investigation, officials said during a news conference Monday. The "difficult and lengthy" cleanup process now begins.

The explosion happened Friday night at the R.M. Palmer Company factory located on South Second Avenue in West Reading. Pennsylvania State Police are in charge of figuring out the cause and origin of the explosion, but officials add the investigation includes multiple agencies.

"We are we're closely working with emergency response, environmental experts and construction professionals to ensure that the cleanup is done safely, efficiently and with minimal impact on the surrounding community. We urge the public to be patient during this time," West Reading Borough Police Chief Wayne Hoban said.

Pennsylvania State Police said two state fire marshals are working the case.

Seven people died in the explosion at the candy factory site last week, with officials saying there are no more missing people. Reading Hospital officials said 10 people were treated in the ER or trauma unit for injuries sustained from the explosion. One of those patients was transported to another hospital's burn unit. Two others were admitted, and one was discharged Monday.

West Reading officials hold press conference after deadly candy factory explosion 28:52

The Berks County Coroner's Office on Monday identified Amy Sandoe, 49, and Domingo Cruz, 60, as two of the deceased victims.

One person was pulled from the rubble alive.  

West Reading Mayor Samantha Kaag said the borough won't be releasing the names of the other victims. The coroner's office will release the names of the other victims once they're identified. 

"My focus will be on the families and those affected to get them the resources and information they need," Kaag said.

Kaag added that it's unclear if the people who died were employees at the candy factory. 

West Reading fire marshal Troy Hatt said some buildings in the area of the explosion have been condemned due to safety reasons. 

Hatt said the buildings at 5 South Second Ave, 77 South Second Avenue and 200 Penn Ave are unsafe, including four apartment units. He said the buildings aren't condemned, at the moment, to be demolished. 

The buildings are unsafe to occupy and engineers need to come out to inspect them, Hatt said.   

"That means they are not condemned to be demolished. What that means is they are unsafe to occupy. We need a lot more information from those buildings," Hatt said.

Hatt said the businesses operating in those buildings are operating and will continue to do so at other locations. 

Hatt said Second Avenue will continue to be closed to Franklin Street to Penn Avenue, and Cherry Street will be closed from Second Avenue to the railroad bridge for safety reasons. 

Kaag said they're asking everyone to keep the victim's in their prayers. 

"Our thoughts are with those affected by the process and news," she said.

A spokesperson for UGI utilities said there were no reports to them of a gas leak or smell of gas in the week leading up to the explosion. 

Borough Council President Ryan Lineaweaver noted by Monday afternoon, $107,000 was raised through the West Reading Recovery Fund and how best to distribute the money to victims and those impacted is being discussed.

Officials said the explosion was an isolated incident. Those with photos and/or videos of the explosion or anything related to the case are asked to pass it along to authorities.

"Don't ever think it ahh no big deal. Get it to us and then we'll decide it's not a big deal," Master Trooper David Boehm said with Pennsylvania State Police.

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