MIchael Hubbard at Peconic Bay Medical Center Skilled Nursing Facility in December 2017. File photo: Denise Civiletti

Michael Hubbard, who as a 14-year-old was severely burned by an exploding “gel candle,” passed away late last night at Peconic Bay Medical Center.

He died in the arms of his mother Nancy Reyer, who was a near-constant presence at his bedside since his injury.

Michael, now 22, lived with debilitating brain injury since nine days after he was rushed to the burn unit at Stony Brook University Hospital on May 28, 2011 — when his heart stopped beating and was deprived of blood and oxygen for 13 minutes. Doctors brought him back to life, but the damage to his brain was devastating and permanent. He spent the rest of his life bedridden and nonverbal, nourished by a feeding tube.

He lived the last six years at PBMC’s skilled nursing facility, after 18 months at Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Westchester.

Michael suffered a major setback last month, when multiple grand mal seizures sent him to the emergency room on May 13. The seizures further injured his brain and doctors counseled his mother that the young man’s body was giving out.

Michael’s injury was caused by a highly flammable, ethanol-based fuel gel sold for use with a decorative ceramic pot, both distributed by a Georgia-based home and garden company and sold throughout the country by at Bed Bath and Beyond stores. The “Fire Pot” and “Fire Gel” fuel were defectively designed and inherently dangerous, a court ruled in 2017. The product injured at least 86 people in the U.S., many critically — 34 victims were hospitalized with second and third degree burns of the face, chest, hands, arms or legs. Two people died as a result of injuries in a span of about 15 months in 2010-2011. In June 2011, the distributer voluntarily pulled the product of retail shelves.

Visitation will be on Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m. at St. John the Evangelist RC Church in Riverhead. A funeral Mass will be offered on Friday at 10 a.m. Interment will follow at St. John the Evangelist Cemetery.

The family has requested in lieu of flowers that donations be made to Peconic Bay Medical Center Foundation. Donation envelopes will be available during visitation at the church.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.