Earlier this month, the nation was charmed and enthralled by the story of two workers who were rescued by heroic first responders after falling into enormous containers of chocolate at an M&M Mars factory in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania.
Documents newly obtained by Motherboard from the Elizabethtown Police Department through a public-records request, though, cast this chocolate catastrophe in a sinister light.
According to an incident report filed the day of the accident, a police officer who was called to the scene “learned that 2 males were cleaning out a chocolate container and the chocolate sludge (called liquor, a mix of chocolate beans and butter) had hardened around their legs.” After rescue crews freed the men, he learned more.
Two men, according to the report, were in a container of chocolate sludge—described as “approximately 2-3 feet deep and very thick in consistency”— when it began to harden. A third man “jumped into the sludge in an attempt to help free the 2 men but to no avail.” The men were trapped for three hours.
One man on the scene told the officer that workers are usually placed in harnesses and lowered into the containers. A firefighter, though, told the officer that only one of the men had a harness on—suggesting the possibility of lax enforcement of workplace-safety procedures around the dangerous chocolate sludge.
A supplemental narrative filed by a second police officer adds more detail. This officer initially struggled to understand what was going on due to all the workers and EMS and fire department personnel on the scene. (“Due to the multitude of people and everything going on it was hard for me to get to a position where I could see the room where the chocolate container was located,” he wrote.)
The officer was later able to speak with workers, including the one who’d managed to free himself “because he did not have work boots on and was able to slip out of his shoes before the chocolate liquor hardened.”
Interestingly, according to the report, the trapped workers were not in fact employees of Mars, Incorporated, the multinational company that owns the factory and manufactures tasty M&Ms treats as well as other consumer products. They also appear not to have been working in the safest conditions.
"When talking with [Redacted] about what happened he made the comment that the clearance between the top of the tank and the ceiling of the room is inadequate and that he has voiced that opinion several times to Mars employees,” the officer wrote. “[Redacted] said that since the top of the tank is so close to the ceiling you cannot access the top of the tank and attempt to pull someone, that may be trapped inside, out. [Redacted] also made the comment that the tank that they were working in had not been properly inspected before they had entered the tank to clean.”
You can read the full incident report below: