Worker dies after fall into Hershey’s-bound chocolate

Posted: July 08, 2009

A temp worker at a Camden chocolate processing plant died this morning after he fell into an eight-foot vat that was mixing and melting chocolate to be used in Hershey's candy.

Vincent Smith II, 29, of Camden, was standing atop a platform and tossing blocks of solid, raw chocolate into the tank, Jason Laughlin, spokesman for the Camden County Prosecutor's Office, said.

The tank was heated at 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and paddles inside stirred the chocolate as it was thrown in.

When Smith fell around 10:30 a.m., one of his three coworkers on the platform immediately rushed to turn the machine off and the two others tried to pull him out.

But Smith had been struck by one of the paddles, suffering fatal injuries. He was pronounced dead at the scene, and Camden firefighters pulled his chocolate-covered body out of the tank.

Smith worked at a plant owned by Lyons & Sons, Inc., which is contracted by Moorestown, NJ-based Cocoa Services, Inc. to process chocolate. Laughlin said the plant, which was once a Campbell's Soup Co. location, had been processing chocolate for six or seven years.

Laughlin said early investigation results indicate the death was accidental. The mixing process was a daily task performed by the workers, he said, and yesterday's batch would have been used in making Hershey products.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration said it was investigating the incident. Lyons & Sons does not have any prior OSHA violations.

In July 2002, a 19-year-old worker died in a similar fashion when he fell into a vat for mixing and melting chocolate at a plant in Hatfield Township, Montgomery County.

An autopsy determined the man died of asphyxiation.

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