2011 Top Story No. 2: Community rallies around young burn victim

COURTESY PHOTO | Michael Hubbard

Tragedy struck here Memorial Day weekend when a 14-year-old boy suffered severe burns and a brain injury in a freak gel candle accident while prepping his aunt’s backyard for her wedding celebration.

The gravity of the situation was matched only by the generosity of the Riverhead community, which pulled together for Michael Hubbard and his mother, Nancy Reyer, through car washes and other fundraisers. Michael spent nearly six months at Stony Brook University Medical Center before moving to a Westchester County children’s hospital. Thousands of dollars were raised to help support the family. The accident happened as Michael poured citronella-scented gel into a previously lit candle at his aunt’s house. The bottle of FireGel-brand fuel exploded in his hand, covering his body with the burning jelly. That accident and several similar ones caused the gel’s manufacturer to voluntarily pull the product from stores across the country.

Michael’s recovery has been slow, but Ms. Reyer got an early Christmas present last week in terms of her son’s progress. On Dec. 16 a speech therapist asked Michael if he liked to go-kart, to which he responded, “Yeah,” his first word since the accident.

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