A well-known Southampton man is fighting for his life after his fishing boat exploded in the Southampton Harbour.

Shortly after 6 p.m. on Thursday an explosion aboard the ‘Andarlin’ fishing tug rocked the harbour. It was so loud local fishermen gathered to see exactly what happened at the harbour.

Jeff Schnar lives nearby and says it “Just sounded like a bomb going off. It was unbelievable, loud, rattled the windows in the house.”

The force of the blast also buckled the roof of the boat, which is made from the same steel typically used in tanks.

The Saugeen Shores Police and Fire Department say there was black smoke billowing out of the boat when they arrived.

The explosion blew one man into the water. The 47-year-old was treated and released from the Southampton Hospital.

The boat’s owner Chester Ritchie, 63, a fixture at the marina, was found badly hurt still aboard the boat when emergency crews arrived. He was airlifted to a Toronto hospital with critical injuries.

Schnar says “It’s not good. Chester’s a well-known man, highly respected in our community so we’re all praying for him, hoping he’ll be okay.”

Fire officials say they do not believe anything suspicious set off the explosion, but this is the first boat explosion local fire and police have had to investigate.

Saugeen Shores Fire Chief Phil Eagleson says “We haven’t seen a fire like this before. We’re very careful to protect the environment. There was no spill of fuel or diesel at this time and we continue to monitor the condition of the boat to make sure there is no release to the river or Lake Huron.”

The Ontario Fire Marshall’s Office and Ministry of Labour are assisting local crews in trying to figure out what caused the explosion.

Meanwhile friends of Ritchie are hoping and praying for the best.