A woman who survived an explosion at a Pennsylvania chocolate factory March 24 spent nine hours in a vat of chocolate, calling for help, the AP reported.
Patricia Borges, 50, broke her collarbone, both of her heels, and suffered burns to her arm when an explosion rocked the R.M. Palmer Co. chocolate factory in West Reading, Pennsylvania, killing seven of her co-workers, the Associated Press reported. As firefighters fought to put out the subsequent inferno that engulfed the building, Borges spent nine hours submerged in the vat of chocolate she had fallen into and in a pool of water when the building crumbled around her.
“When I began to burn, I thought it was the end for me,” Borges told the AP.
A woman pulled alive from the rubble of a Pa. chocolate factory after an explosion that killed 7 co-workers says her arm caught fire — and then she fell through the floor into a vat of liquid chocolate. https://t.co/Pd1VtkXNzZ
— Anchorage Daily News (@adndotcom) March 31, 2023
Borges was on a ladder when the explosion occurred, throwing her to the ground. She remembers hearing screaming and fire all around her before the flames engulfed her arm. “I asked God why he was giving me such a horrible death,” she told the AP. “I asked him to save me, that I didn’t want to die in the fire.”
As Borges attempted to flee the horrifying scene around her, the floor of the building gave way and she fell into a long, horizontal tank of chocolate in the factory’s basement. The chocolate doused the flames on her arm, but the fall into the chest-deep vat is what she believes broke her heels, the AP reported.
As firefighters worked to put out the fire in the factory, water from the hoses began filling up the chocolate vat forcing Borges to climb out as the liquid reached her neck. After sitting on the lip of the tank, Borges then jumped into a pool of “frigid” water that had formed on the basement floor, staying afloat by holding onto plastic tubing as she repeatedly cried out for help, the outlet reported. (RELATED: At Least 13 Injured, Crews Responding After Explosion At metal Manufacturing Plant)
In addition to the water from the fire hoses, the main supply pipe for the building’s fire suppression system had broken open, spewing even more water into the basement. “The only thing I wanted was to get out of there,” Borges told the outlet.
Rescuers finally found Borges in the middle of the night after she saw their light and began screaming again for help.
“She was severely hypothermic and banged up,” conscious but “absolutely confused,” Ken Pagurek, who helped lead rescue efforts as program manager of the emergency response team Pennsylvania Task Force 1, told the AP. “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,” Pagurek continued.
Borges, who had worked at Palmer for four years before the explosion, claims that she and her co-workers complained about a strong gas odor approximately 30 minutes before the explosion, as reported by the AP. Now facing surgery on both feet, the loss of friends and a long road of recovery, she is seeking accountability.
“I wanted to speak so that this will be prevented in the future,” she said. “For my colleague Judy, I want there to be justice.”
Federal, state and local investigations into the blast are currently underway. Though no official cause has been determined, the federal transportation safety agency has characterized the blast as that of a natural gas explosion, the outlet stated.