Lawsuit filed after gel candle explodes

Once-popular gel candle severely injures local woman

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Channel 4 first brought you the story of 33-year-old Mandy Plato back in December after Plato suffered second- and third-degree burns across 40 percent of her body when a gel candle exploded.

Plato has spent the last two months in the intensive care unit at Shands Medical Center burn unit in Gainesville, where she continues to recover from her injuries.

Plato's attorney, Curry Pajcic, said the product is like napalm in a bottle. Pajcic explained that when Plato was sitting across from her mother in their backyard last November, her mother went to pour candle gel into one of two pods. As her mother poured the gel from the bottle, the vapors ignited with the flame in the other pod and sent the fiery gel flying onto Mandy.

"She doesn't want to look at herself in the mirror yet," Pajcic said. "She has catastrophic injuries. And the people who caused the harm should be responsible for that harm."

Plato has undergone 16 surgeries, and Sunday night she started speaking again. It is a small victory in her long road to recovery.

Pajcic filed a lawsuit against the product manufactures of Marshall Gardens Patio Glo Gel Fuel; The Marshall Group, U.S. Industrial Fluids and Alpha Plastics. Alpha Plastics is the company that produces the plastic bottle the Patio Glo is sold in.

"One of the problems with this product, it is an open-mouth design so that these vapors have a very low ignition point," Pajcic said. "The vapors can flash back into the bottle, causing the vapors concentrated in the bottle head to explode."

The Consumer Product Safety Commission and The Marshall Group recalled the product in September 2011. When Channel 4 first covered the story in December, it found the product being sold at a store at the Jacksonville Landing. At the time, the owner said he didn't know about the recall and immediately pulled it from the shelves.

Patio Glo can also be purchased on eBay.

"We know that the product is still being sold from the United Kingdom back to America and throughout Europe. To sell it back to the U.S. is still illegal," Pajcic said.

While Pajcic is bracing for a long legal battle ahead, Plato's family is hoping to move her to Brooks Rehabilitation center in the next few weeks. Her family is determined to make sure nothing like this happens to another family.

"It literally contains a napalm bomb. You've got to do something that is going to keep the consumer safe," Pajcic said.

Channel 4 reached out to the makers of the candle gel Monday night but did not get a return phone call. In December, the company issued this statement about Plato's injuries:

"Patio Glo pourable fuel gel was part of a nationwide and industry-wide voluntary recall of all fuel gels in the fall of 2011. This action in cooperation with the CPSC was designed to eliminate potential mishaps that could occur if customers poured alcohol or ethanol based fuel gels into still lit firepots. None of our product of this kind has been sold into N. Florida since February of 2011 and nationwide since September of 2011. The firepot industry has since found and switched to safer alternatives that eliminate this potential hazard from occurring.

"Courtesy of your help, we have been made aware that one retailer did still have old stock that was not returned as part of the recall. The retailer has been notified and all stock was immediately pulled from the shelves. In addition, we have confirmed with the three other retailers who carried our product in the N. Florida/Jacksonville area that no other Patio Glo bio ethanol fire gel is or has been on sale for an extended period.

"Regardless of whether we find out if it is our product or not, our hearts and prayers go out to anyone hurt in any way during this holiday season."

Best regards,
David Schemenauer
President, The Marshall Group

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