7 victims killed in West Reading chocolate factory explosion identified

Autopsies preliminarily revealed that all seven died of blast injuries. The following victims have been identified by the Berks County Coroner's Office.

This story originally appeared on 6abc. 

Authorities in Berks County have released the names of seven people killed in a chocolate factory explosion in West Reading, Pennsylvania last week.

The blast happened on Friday at R.M. Palmer Company.

Autopsies preliminarily revealed that all seven died of blast injuries. The following victims have been identified by the Berks County Coroner’s Office:

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  • Xiorky D. Nunez, 30, of Reading, PA
  • Susan H. Halvonik, 63, of Upper Providence Township, PA
  • Michael D. Breedy, 62, of Marion Township, PA
  • Diana M. Cedeno, 44, of Reading, PA
  • Judith Lopez-Moran, 55, of Reading, PA
  • Amy S. Sandoe, 49, of Ephrata, PA
  • Domingo Cruz, 60, of Reading, PA
Two side-by-side photos of Amy Sandoe and Domingo Cruz.
Amy Sandoe (left) and Domingo Cruz (right) were both killed in the explosion at R.M. Palmer Company on March 24, 2023. (Courtesy of 6abc)

The manner of death is pending further investigation by other agencies, officials said.

The National Transportation Safety Board are examining a natural gas pipeline for fractures and other damage as they gather evidence on the cause of last week’s explosion, a spokesperson said Wednesday.

A photo of Diana Cedeno
Diana Cedeno (Courtesy of 6abc)

Federal investigators have said natural gas was involved in the explosion.

“NTSB is continuing to gather evidence about how the building was supplied with natural gas and point of ignition, interview witnesses, examine the pipeline for fractures, any damage to pipeline, a chronology of events leading up to the explosion, among other issues that may come up as the investigation continues,” agency spokesperson Keith Holloway said by email Wednesday.

A preliminary report on the explosion could be available in about three weeks, whereas the final report could take up to two years, he said. Pennsylvania State Police are also investigating the cause.

Some workers had told relatives they smelled natural gas before the blast, although the gas utility, UGI, said it had received no reports of a gas leak. UGI said it is cooperating with the probe.

The family that owns the candy company said in a statement Wednesday that the loss of their employees “will be felt forever.”

“My family and I are deeply saddened and heartbroken by the devastating loss of several colleagues and friends as a result of last week’s tragic incident at the West Reading facility,” said the statement from Richard Palmer Jr. and his family.

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