A woman who survived the rubble after an explosion at a chocolate factory in Pennsylvania killed seven of her colleagues says flames engulfed the building and her arms, causing the floor to collapse. If she hadn’t fallen into a vat of liquid chocolate, that might have been the end of her.
The black liquid extinguished her burning arm, but Patricia Borges ended up with a broken collarbone and both heels. She spent her next nine hours screaming for her help and waiting for her rescue. At the RM Palmer factory, firefighters fought hell and a chopper slammed overhead.
“When it started burning, I thought it was over,” Borges, 50, told The Associated Press from his hospital bed in West Reading, Pennsylvania. machine operator. Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board interviewed Borges on Friday, according to her family.
Seven of Borges’ colleagues were killed and 10 injured in the March 24 explosion at RM Palmer. Federal, state and local investigations are underway. The cause has not been determined, but the Federal Transportation Safety Administration has identified it as a natural gas explosion.
Borges said she and others complained of gas odors about 30 minutes before the factory exploded. She is angry that Palmer was not evacuated immediately. She could have prevented the deaths of her colleagues, including her best friend Judith Lopez Moran, she said.
Some workers said they smelled natural gas, relatives said. The Palmer Company, a 75-year-old family-owned company with deep roots in a small town 60 miles (96 km) northwest of Philadelphia, did not respond to questions about the workers’ allegations.
Speaking in Spanish during the video conference, her eyes were bruised and her right arm was heavily bandaged after being burned.
The factory was preparing for a product changeover that day, so instead of running the candy wrapping machine as usual, she helped clean it up.
At 4:30 p.m., Borges told the AP that he smelled natural gas. It was strong and nauseating. Borges and her colleagues approached her boss and asked, “What were you going to do if we evacuated?”
Borges said her supervisor pointed out that someone higher up would have to make that decision.
Just before 5pm, a two-story brick building exploded.
Borges, who was on the ladder, was thrown to the ground. she heard a cry. There was fire all over her and the flames quickly overtook her. “I asked God why he gave me such a horrible death,” she said.
she started running. Then her floor gave way and she felt herself falling into an oblong chocolate vat in the basement of the factory.A four foot tall, her ten inches tall, Borges was about her chest level. landed her foot in the liquid.
Chocolate put out the flames, but she believes the fall broke her leg.
The vat began to fill with water from the firefighter’s hose, and eventually Borges climbed to neck level. Borges, who submerged her briefly, said she swallowed a mouthful of water before surfacing. She grabbed some plastic tubes.
and she waited.
“Help, help, help!” she cried over and over for hours. nobody came.
The pain became more intense. The water was cold. A main supply pipe for the building’s fire extinguishing system had ruptured, allowing water to flow into the basement. She forgot her time but thought she might be there for days.
“The only thing I wanted was to get out of there,” she said.
Finally, seeing the light in the middle of the night, she cried out for help anew.
Search and rescue dogs had warned handlers that survivors might be in the rubble. As the rescue team cautiously descended into the basement, they heard Borges screaming.
Calling for silence, rescuers followed the sound of her voice. She went to them and she was put in the garbage.
“She had severe hypothermia and was very shaken,” said Ken Paglek, who led the rescue effort as program manager for Pennsylvania Task Force 1.
“If they hadn’t gotten to her, it would have been very likely that the casualty count would have been plus one,” said Pagrek, who is also the chief of the Philadelphia Fire Department.
Her rescue gave hope to first responders who had already pulled two bodies out of the rubble hours after the explosion. Rescuers spent two more days in the mountains. They found five more bodies, but no more survivors.
Borges now faces surgery on both legs and a long recovery. Her family started her GoFundMe campaign to help pay the bills.
Borges, who came to the United States from the state of Puebla in south-central Mexico 31 years ago, has worked for Palmer for four years. She said she wanted accountability.
“I wanted to talk to you so that this is prevented in the future,” she said. “I want my colleague Judy to do justice.”
Rubincum was reported from northeastern Pennsylvania and Coronado from Austin, Texas.
https://www.wkbn.com/news/pennsylvania/factory-explosion-survivor-on-fire-fell-into-chocolate-vat/ Factory explosion survivor Patricia Borges fell into a vat of chocolate in a fire