At least five killed in Pennsylvania chocolate factory explosion

Originally published at: At least five killed in Pennsylvania chocolate factory explosion | Boing Boing


Damn. I wonder if it was combusting cocoa powder/dust that was the cause of the explosion. That can definitely be explosive under the wrong conditions, similar to flour.

(The news article mentions that they’re looking into the possibility of a gas leak though.)


Gas rarely explodes with that kind of force. Combustible powder like you suggest is a more likely culprit to level a large building.


Lucky it was after hours; hundreds of people worked there during the day.

I would rephrase this, nothing lucky about any of this.


Also similar to the Molasses flood in Boston in 1919… although more about inadequate storage facilities:


It definitely can, but it would’ve likely been a leak that had been unaddressed for some time. I bet people complained about smelling gas or rotting eggs for a while, and the gas slowly accumulated somewhere and building up over time until it reached a combustible concentration. Had it been a more severe gas leak it would’ve been noticed faster, but the very subtle gas leaks can be harder to notice and pin point. That said i would hazard a guess it was negligence, the gas equipment and plumber’s lines should’ve been tested for leaks every now and then. Ideally this should be done annually.


Oh no! No more chocolate eyeballs for Halloween! This was the only place that made them.

Over the past few years I have seen less and less of their product in stores as they were crowded out by MARS/HERSHEY/BIGCHOCOLATE. I would call them every Fall to find out where to find these and eventually no one stocked them near me. Last year I almost scheduled a road trip from Chicago to PA just to buy a few cases.


I think that this is more common in things like mines; but catalytic gas sensors (even the ones you might trust; not just ebay/aliexpress hobbyist modules) are cheap enough that, especially in contexts where a lot of gas is involved(I’d assume that we weren’t talking ‘we smelt chocolate ore into the refined product’ levels of energy use here; but presumably amounts of melting far in excesss of even institutional kitchen cooking requirements were happening) or there are potential crannies even periodic inspection(while a good thing) is probably both unnecessarily and unacceptably slow to pick up problems.

There is, though, the obnoxious complication that, for reasons whose chemistry I don’t understand especially well, the catalytic gas sensors can be poisoned by silicones in addition to some of the halides and sulfides that you are probably trying to keep away from your chocolate for other reasons.

It’s a pity; because silicones have all sorts of useful applications; and are generally so inoffensive in sensory and human toxicology terms that you wouldn’t guess that they are what is destroying your gas sensors. I haven’t yet seen a story of the awkward discovery that someone was killed by carbon monoxide without warning because their ‘personal lubricants’ poisoned the carbon monoxide detector and why would a consumer expect that to possibly be a thing; but I assume it will turn up one of these days.


The building that was destroyed wasn’t the main production facility. It appears to be a smaller building to the left (north) of the one shown in the picture on the main page. Possibly an administrative building or some such, based on the lack of loading facilities and minimal rooftop HVAC stuff.


As of about an hour ago they are only confirming 2 deaths. They are saying 6 missing but they did find 1 person alive overnight so there is hope.

But right now only 2 confirmed dead.

News conference from about an hour ago.


Another complication with the gas sensors is that natural gas can migrate from the leak to somewhere else in a building if there’s a crack, pipe,vent or something else. So it can accumulate in areas where a sensor might not normally pick it up. At my work they occasionally play some training videos of events where it was found that gas migrated to certain areas of a house or building and its certainly disconcerting.


Worst death by chocolate ever.

Death by Chocolate – The East India Company.


Death by Molasses has got to be more nightmarish than death by Beer.


I thought cocoa dust was too “oily” for such a reaction.


No one killed, but a slow nightmare.


A NY chocolate company that re-opened a year after hurricane sandy makes crunchy choc eyeballs! I saw them at a nearby dollar store.


It’s weird seeing the story percolate through the internet; it sort of collectively goes like:

“Oh a chocolate factory exploded - that’s a fun story. Totally Willy Wonka, you know? I’m imagining candy all over the place, maybe children frolicking in geysers of chocolate sauce and-”
“No, not really, it was just a regular industrial explosion, there are maybe 8 people dead.”
“Ha h- oh, oh shit, really? Uhhh…”

If the powder can get suspended in the air, which cocoa can, it’s explosive. The oil makes it more difficult to suspend, but makes it more combustible, I believe.


Maybe it depends on how much it’s been processed, whether all the cocoa butter has been separated, etc., but I’m definitely seeing it listed as an explosion hazard and there are plenty of videos people have posted on YouTube showing them blow up cocoa in slow motion.


Its properties should only be harnessed for good… but…


… Hamster Huey will never be the same :grimacing: