Michael Hubbard's Harrowing Experience Taught Everyone A Less, Saved Lives

RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Michael Hubbard was critically burned nine months ago when jelly-like citronella fuel was poured into a firepot as his family prepared for a backyard wedding reception. The incident even sent him into cardiac arrest.

But he chose to fight.

“I just saw an explosion and the whole gazebo went up in flames and set Michael on fire. I was going crazy trying to get Michael, the flame off him, yelling and screaming,” Nancy Reyer, Michael’s mother, told CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan.

The napalm-like substance exploded, sticking to Michael’s skin and clothing and kept burning. Doctors at Stony Brook told his mother that he had been deprived of oxygen for 13 minutes and was clinging to life.


A backyard firepot (credit: CBS 2)

“I did go in and tell him after his cardiac arrest, ‘If you want to go with the angels, mommy’s here, and I’m OK, but if you want to stay and fight, I’ll fight to the end with you,'” Reyer told CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan.

After numerous skin grafts and surgeries, he can now raise his head, control his feet, unclench his hands, and even speak a bit.

Reyer moved into the rehab center at Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Valhalla, never leaving Michael’s side. His Riverhead High School classmates and teachers visit with cards and letters.

“On our journey, which has been nine months now, my community has been overwhelming with love and support,” Reyer said.

Michael has always been deeply religious, and it is his faith that is pulling him through, his mom said.

“This right here is my gift from God and I’m going to be here until the end, until we walk out of here,” she said.

Following Michael’s accident, Suffolk County legislators passed a law banning the fuel gel and firepots from store shelves.

“Suffolk County led the way with what we call ‘Michael’s Law,’ in honor of Michael Hubbard. And the law passed on his 15th birthday,” Suffolk County Legislator Ed Romaine said.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission also announced a nationwide recall of the fuel-gel candles, blamed for a number of similar accidents across the country.

So as Hubbard fights to recover, his family says he is already saving lives since no one else will be subjected to the same tragedy.

The only way to put out a fuel gel fire is with a fire extinguisher. Even though the products have been recalled and are no longer sold, Michael’s family is warning people who may still have them in their homes about the dangers.

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