Candle gel that caused Riverhead boy’s accident recalled after Times article

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

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

Michael has been in the Intensive Care Unit ever since.

Neighbor Jerry Halpin, who helped put out the flames in Michael’s accident described the gel as like “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 later, Nick Stone, a 24-year-old recent graduate of University of Colorado Boulder suffered second- and third- degree burns over 40 percent of his body in an almost identical Manhattan accident, his step-father John LaViolette told the News-Review. He has been at New York Presbyterian Hospital since.

The accidents both involved FireGel brand citronella gel, which is poured into ceramic fire pots, 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 August 23, 2010 and a man suffered burns on his legs on June 24, 2010 in almost identical accidents, according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. There are 10 incidents of people suffering first-, second- and third-degree burns from gel candles reported to the US consumer safety commission in the past 3 years, according to records.

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

Meanwhile, yesterday students at Riverhead High School hosted a car wash to help pay for Michael and his mother’s medical bills. The fundraiser raised just under $3,000. “I cannot believe the pictures of the car wash from yesterday,” Ms. Reyer wrote on Michael’s recovery blog at “Michael would [have] loved it, especially the girls in shorts holding signs with his name on it.”

Michael’s teammates on the Riverhead High School bowling team will host a fundraiser for him tonight at Wildwood Lanes in Northampton. Tickets are $20 and include unlimited bowling from 5 until 8 p.m.

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