Liquid Chocolate
Leah Berenson
Leah Berenson
April 8, 2024 ·  4 min read

Factory Worker Who Thought She Would Burn to Death Says Falling into Vat of Chocolate Saved Her Life

The Industrial Revolution created thousands of jobs and played a major role in the rapid growth of the economy over the last 100 years. However, life as a factory worker has its flaws, including personal safety for its workers. Recently, a major chocolate factory in Pennsylvania exploded, killing several workers. Fortunately, a survivor came forward to comment, attributing her saved life to having fallen into a vat of liquid chocolate.

Founding a Chocolate Haven

Richard M. Palmer died in 2009, but not before creating a chocolate legacy. He founded a massively known chocolate empire years before. R.M. Palmer has operated since 1948 with an initial investment of only $25,000. He worked hard to build a successful candy distributor that today has more than 800 employees and distributes candy nationwide. However, on March 24, 2023, there was an explosion at the Pennsylvania chocolate factory, tragically killing and injuring several factory workers.

Factory Workers are Injured or Worse

Initially, the explosion killed two factory worker employees, injured ten who were hospitalized, and caused the disappearance of 5 other factory worker employees. Sadly, the five missing factory workers were declared deceased, bringing the total of deaths to seven. First responders came in with K-9-unit search and rescue dogs to track down the missing factory workers and any possible survivors. Fortunately, uncovering a still alive Patricia Borges. She has since come to and explained her first-hand account of the events that took place, crediting her life to a giant vat of liquid chocolate.

Liquid Chocolate Saves a Life

The factory worker explained that flames engulfed the building, when the floor collapsed beneath her. With her arm now on fire, she fell into the chocolate, extinguishing her arm and saving her life. She sustained a collarbone injury, and two broken feet, and spent the next 9 hours crying out for help. “When I began to burn, I thought it was the end for me,” Borges, 50, told The Associated Press. The factory worker was a machine operator but explained on that day she was recruited to help clean. The company was working on a product switch and so required all the machines be cleaned and prepped for the new product.

Factory Workers Want Answers

The family run Palmer Co. has yet to respond to questions about the workers claims. However, there are currently local, state, and federal investigations taking place to track the events that led to the deadly explosion. Thus far, the Federal Transportation Safety Agency has deemed the explosion “a natural gas explosion.”

The characterization seems to align as Borges explained smelling gas just moments before the explosion occurred. She explained that she and several other factory workers had made complaints about the odor in the 30 minutes that led to the explosion. She’s angry that the factory wasn’t evacuated and lost a friend, Judith Lopez-Moran, whose death could’ve been prevented.

Borges asked her supervisor, “what was going to be done, if we were going to be evacuated.” According to her recount, the supervisor said someone higher up would make that call and in the meantime the factory workers were instructed to carry on as usual. At 5 pm, when most people are preparing to wrap up their workday, the 2-story building exploded. Borges, on a ladder at the time was thrown to the ground, when her arm caught fire. “I asked God why he was giving me such a horrible death,” she said. “I asked him to save me, that I didn’t want to die in the fire,” The only thing I wanted was to get out of there,” she said.

Rescue Efforts to a Factory Worker

Ken Pagurek helped lead rescue efforts and is part of the Pennsylvania Task Force 1. He explained, “She was severely hypothermic and banged up,” conscious but “absolutely confused,“I think had they not gotten to her when they did, there was a very good chance the number of victims was going to be plus one,” he said.

Borges is now facing surgery and hospital bills, resulting in her family’s decision to launch a GoFundMe page, hoping to help ensure the factory worker gets the medical care she needs. She came to the United States from Puebla State in South-Central Mexico and has lived here for 31 years. Although only a factory worker at Palmer for the last 4 years, she’s looking to the company to take responsibility for the “preventable” accident leading to multiple factory workers’ deaths.

Factory Workers in High Demand

The Industrial Revolution came in 2 phases. The first was around the 1830s & ’40s, although some inventions were developed as early as the late 1700s. Then again, taking place in the late 1800s and early 1900s, while jobs were replaced by machines, a number of jobs were also created. Meaning factory workers were in high demand.

Since the innovation of these machines, factory workers who man them have faced harsh working conditions, including those that cause long-term adverse health conditions. As a result, Congress created OSHA as part of the 1970 Occupational Safety and Health Act. The Administration is in charge of inspecting and approving both healthy and safe work environments. While they have a strict set of rules and guidelines, occasionally, mistakes are still made.

It’s still unclear whether the explosion was due to human error, or simply an accident. Either way, Borges and her fellow factory workers are looking for accountability. “I wanted to speak so that this will be prevented in the future. For my colleague Judy, I want there to be justice.” she explained.

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