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

06/11/2011 9:58 AM |

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.



64 Comment

  • I am a gel candle maker and I have one thing to say: It was not the gel that exploded rather it was the citronella that is combustable. clear gel is not flammable! I have been working with gel for many years now and I nor any of my customers have had any issues of this sort. Citronella is not for gel! That was the cause of the tragic events. Do not blame the gel. furthermore, candles are not a toy! no one should play with ANY candle especially children!

    Thank you, C. Berry.

  • You are wrong Mr. Berry. Last friday night a non-citronella based gel exploded in my hand while refilling a warm container with no fire. Serious injuries and no children were playing with this VERY dangerous stuff. Stop the excuses and take this off the market.

  • My nephew was not playing with a candle. His mother sat next to him, and they tried to refill the candle when it exploded in a fire ball. Perhaps if people read what happened instead of assuming we would not have to defend my nephew.
    This candle should not be on the market. You can say these things are safe but I want you to go to the Pediatric ICU at Stony Brook, and look at my nephew, who is fighting for his life.

  • To the many people that have been injured from using this product, you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. The accidents that have resulted from the use of this product are horrific! Because of the number of recalls issued on a daily basis and the severity of injuries that are caused by the use of defective products, I would encourage parents to check EVERY product they own, are currently using or intend to buy at for any recall notices. By law, retailers are required to immediately remove any product that has been recalled. However, this does not always stop recalled products from finding their ways to the hands of consumers. While it is now illegal to sell a product that has been recalled, people continue to sell these products at garage sales, thrift shops, online, etc. For instance, look at the number of people who sell baby cribs, strollers, etc online. Baby items are extremely prone to product recall. For clarification, I am not saying that these people are intentionally selling recalled products rather that they simple do not know the law or are unaware that the products they’re selling have in fact been recalled.