A woman was found alive after the Pennsylvania chocolate factory where she worked exploded on March 24th. The incident killed seven of her co-workers after flames engulfed the brick building.
Patricia Borges, 50, a machine operator at the chocolate factory, fell into a tank of liquid chocolate after the ground gave way beneath her. While the dark liquid extinguished the flames on her arm, the fall broke both her feet as well as her collarbone. She would spend the next nine hours waiting and yelling for help as firefighters battled the flames.
According to Borges, who agreed to an interview from her West Reading hospital bed, she believed “it was the end for [her]” when she began to burn..
The explosion, which took place at the R.M. Palmer Co. factory killed seven and injured ten others, according to officials. While the federal transportation safety agency has not yet determined a cause, it’s believed to be a natural gas explosion.
In the interview, Borges said that she and her co-workers had noticed a gas smell approximately 30 minutes before the building exploded. It was a strong smell and allegedly nauseated her and the others. She is angry that the company did not order an evacuation, which could have saved the lives of her co-workers, including Judith Lopez-Moran, who was a close friend.
Other workers also reported smelling gas before the explosion. However, the 75-year-old family-run chocolate factory has not replied to any questions about the employees’ claims.
In the video interview, Borges’ injuries were apparent; her right arm, which was burnt badly in the explosion was heavily bandaged, and her eyes were noticeably bruised. Recounting the terrible incident, she said that the two-story brick building blew up shortly before 5 p.m. on Friday, March 24th.
Borges, who was on a ladder at the time, was immediately thrown to the ground. Flames were everywhere and she heard screaming around her. Desperate to save her life, she began running when the floor gave way, causing her to fall into a long tank of liquid chocolate in the basement. Standing at 4’10”, she landed on her feet with the liquid up to her chest.
While the liquid chocolate extinguished the flames on her arm, the fall had broken her feet. The tank also began to fill with water that came from the firefighter’s hoses; this forced Borges to climb out of the vat as the liquid eventually reached neck level. Once on the top of the tank, she jumped into a pool of water in the basement, where she remained briefly submerged.
Grabbing onto some plastic tubing, she waited and yelled for help. However, no one responded. Over time, the temperature of the water dropped, and the pain that she felt grew more intense.
Finally, after being trapped for several hours, she was discovered and saved in the middle of the night. Search and rescue dogs had allegedly alerted their handlers that a survivor may be in the rubble. The crew subsequently worked their way down to the basement, where they heard her cries for help.
According to Ken Pagurek, who led the rescue efforts, she was severely hypothermic when she was pulled out of the rubble. She was immediately taken to the hospital, where she will undergo surgery on both feet.