Cover Story: Gel candles pulled from shelves in wake of accidents

06/16/2011 5:10 AM |

COURTESY PHOTO Michael Hubbard

As 14-year-old Michael Hubbard of Riverhead remains in Stony Brook University Medical Center, fighting for his life almost three weeks after a gel candle accident, the manufacturer has voluntarily decided to recall the product after The New York Times ran a story Saturday revealing the dangers of the candles.

Michael’s story also made headlines elsewhere around the nation after his mother appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” NBC, CBS and News 12.

Michael’s accident occurred May 28 as he poured citronella-scented gel into a previously lit candle before a wedding celebration at the Riverhead home of his aunt, Fran Reyer-Johnson. The bottle of FireGel brand fuel exploded in his hand, covering his body with the burning jelly. He suffered third-degree burns over 40 percent of his body. His mother, Nancy Reyer, was also injured while trying to extinguish the flames.

As of Tuesday, Michael was still in a medically induced coma, Ms. Reyer-Johnson said. His heart had stopped beating Thursday night, though his pulse was brought back through a defibrillator. Doctors say his condition has been improving slightly and he is now stable.

Neighbor Jerry Halpin, who helped put out the flames that burned Michael, likened the gel to “napalm.”
“It sounds horrific because it was,” said Mr. Halpin, a pastor at North Shore Christian Church in Riverhead. “[The gel] wasn’t released from his body.”

Several days after Michael’s accident, 24-year-old Nick Stone, a recent graduate of University of Colorado in Boulder, suffered second- and third- degree burns over 40 percent of his body in an almost identical mishap in Manhattan, according to his stepfather, John LaViolette. Mr. Stone has been at New York Presbyterian Hospital since.

On May 21, Rachael Smilowitz suffered second- and third degree burns in a gel candle accident in South Carolina, according to an NBC news affiliate in Charleston.

The accidents all involved FireGel brand citronella gel, a jellylike substance that is poured into ceramic fire pots, that was purchased at Bed Bath & Beyond.

And according to records, there have been more accidents in recent years.

A 42-year-old woman suffered second-degree burns on Aug. 23, 2010, and a man suffered burns on his legs on June 24, 2010, in almost identical accidents, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Ten additional incidents in which people suffered first-, second- and third-degree burns from gel candles have been reported to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in the past three years, according to records.

When Napa Home & Garden Inc., which manufactures the firepots and packages the fuel, was told of the accidents by The New York Times, it asked Bed Bath & Beyond on Friday to pull both products from store shelves until it could add new warning labels to them. A spokeswoman for Bed Bath & Beyond confirmed that stores nationwide were told to stop selling the products Friday afternoon, the Times reported.

“We have sold tens of thousands of Fire Burners and fuel during the last two years and have always considered them safe products.” Jerry Cunningham, owner of Napa Home & Garden Inc said in a statement. “We’re a small family-owned business, we care very much about our customers and we want to help assure our products are used safely.”

The warning label on the products reads: “Use Flame Snuffer included with each [candle] to extinguish flame. Exercise the same precautions as you would with any other open fire. Do not add fuel when lit and never pour fuel on an open flame or hot surface. Never touch unit during or after burning gel fuel. [Candle] may be extremely HOT,” according to the Napa release.

The gel candles could not be found on the shelves of the Riverhead Bed Bath & Beyond store Tuesday afternoon.
But according to the Good Morning America report on Monday, the fuel and firepots could still be found at Bed Bath & Beyond stores in Maryland.

Bed Bath & Beyond representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

Although Michael and his family have suffered an especially painful few weeks, they hope the accident and the attention it has received will prevent others from suffering a similar fate.

“We need to take it off the market,” Ms. Reyer tearfully told “Good Morning America.” “It’s a lethal weapon. To me, it’s gasoline in a can.”

vchinese@timesreview.com

24 Comment

  • wb1RnN Really informative article.Thanks Again. Want more.

  • Boy, rounded 1949-1952 GM cars everywhere other than for a person similarly rounded Hudson. Wait, is the fact that a white Dodge or Plymouth organization coupe to the cross street at the rear of the 1950 Chevy convertible during the foreground?

  • I reside while in the north, but I experienced you undertaking some Morris Dancing. That will do for now.

  • You built some awesome points there. I did a search about the subject and uncovered the majority of people will consent with the web site.

  • Spot on with this write-up, I honestly think this amazing site needs a lot more attention. I

  • Thank you so much for sharing this information, I just wish I had found it sooner! The way in which you have written piece is both enlightening, and also very simple to understand and enjoyable to read. Not an easy task considering the subject discussed. Thanks once again, I have learnt something new today, which I like to try and do everyday. My father always used to say “a day without learning anything is a wasted day”. I have certainly learned a great deal from this website, thanks. I hope you don’t mind, but I have added a link to this page from my Twitter account.

  • I’ve been surfing on-line greater than three hours today, but I never found any fascinating article like yours. It is pretty price enough for me. In my view, if all webmasters and bloggers made good content material as you probably did, the internet can be a lot more helpful than ever before.

  • Woah! I’m really loving the template/theme of this site. It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s tough to get that “perfect balance” between superb usability and visual appeal. I must say that you’ve done a fantastic job with this. Additionally, the blog loads very fast for me on Firefox. Superb Blog!

  • Hello my colleagues, how is everything? Here it is in fact good YouTube videos collection. i enjoyed a lot.

  • Thanks a bunch for sharing this with all people you really understand what you are talking approximately! Bookmarked. Please additionally visit my site =). We could have a link change arrangement between us

  • F*ckin’ amazing things here. I am very satisfied to peer your post. Thanks a lot and i am looking ahead to contact you. Will you please drop me a mail?

  • Howdy! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be okay. I’m undoubtedly enjoying your blog and look forward to new updates.

  • How do I copy my WordPress blog onto my computer so I can locally edit and try out plugins before publishing?

  • Pingback: Sneak A Peek At This Website

  • Pingback: harman bird

  • Thank you for the good writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it. Look advanced to far added agreeable from you! By the way, how could we communicate?

  • I must convey my gratitude for your kindness giving support to persons who really want assistance with this subject. Your very own dedication to passing the message along was pretty informative and have really made guys and women just like me to achieve their endeavors. The interesting tutorial can mean so much a person like me and especially to my peers. Regards; from each one of us.

  • Pingback: Look At This Website

  • It would have been nice if I’d found this article earlier, thanks very much for sharing your knowledge. The way in which you have written this page is both interesting, and also very easy to understand and a pleasure to read. Not an easy task considering the subject discussed. I like to try and learn something new everyday, and this article has certainly enlightened me. Thank you once again for publishing this. I hope you don’t mind, but I have added a link to this article from my my Google+ page.

  • Hello there, just became alert to your blog through Google, and found that it’s really informative. I am going to watch out for brussels. I

  • I’m impressed, I have to admit. Seldom do I come across a blog that’s both educative and interesting, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. The problem is an issue that too few people are speaking intelligently about. I’m very happy that I came across this in my search for something concerning this.

  • I think that everything wrote made a ton of sense. However, consider this, suppose you composed a catchier title? I mean, I don’t wish to tell you how to run your blog, but suppose you added a post title to possibly get people’s attention? I mean %BLOG_TITLE% is kinda boring. You ought to glance at Yahoo’s front page and watch how they create news titles to get viewers interested. You might add a video or a related pic or two to get people excited about what you’ve written. In my opinion, it could make your blog a little livelier.

  • hi!,I like your writing so so much! proportion we communicate extra approximately your post on AOL? I need a specialist in this area to unravel my problem. May be that’s you! Having a look forward to look you.

  • Merely wanna comment that you have a very nice web site , I love the design and style it really stands out.