By Peter D'Oench

FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Seven people were taken to the hospital after a boat explosion and fire on the south fork of the New River early Thursday afternoon.

One of those patients had to be airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial’s burn unit with burns to over 40 percent of the body.

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Chopper 4 over the burning boat spotted firefighters shooting a stream of water at it from shore as it drifted near a sea wall at 2001 SW 20th Street. The burning boat was just north of the Lauderdale Marine Center.

Thick black plumes of smoke billowed into the sky.

Those flames shocked people who live nearby.

“They were just shooting up into the air with a lot of black smoke. It would go then it would stop then it would just go again,” said Antoinette Coffer.

Another neighbor, who did not want to show his face, captured video of the boat on fire. He said he heard explosions while he was inside his home.

“Just the typical explosion you would hear, like a loud backfire basically. But it was quick, very quick. As soon as the backfire happened, you could see the flume and the black smoke,” said Dominic.

According to Fort Lauderdale Fire, the 41-foot Wellcraft was heading outbound on the New River with 21 people on board when there was a series of explosions.

“We got initial reports of multiple people in the water with civilian boats in the area rescuing people that were burned and bringing them to the sea wall,” said Fort Lauderdale Fire Batallion Chief Stephen Gollan.

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Gollan said fighting the fire was a challenge.

“The boat was on the north side of the river and all the patients were on the south side of the river. So our crews immediately divided, with a fire attack on the north of the river, stopping the boat from floating down the river any further while our rescue crews were on the south side of the river at the Lauderdale Marine Center treating patients,” said Gollan.

In all, 13 people suffered burns.

Seven were taken to Broward Health Medical Center. Two of the injured were in critical condition. The other five had minor injuries.

The remaining people were treated on the scene for their injuries.

Gollan said the explosion spawned a “floating fireball on the New River.”

He said it was no known if the boat was being used for a charter or not. The cause is under investigation.

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Bret King, a Good Samaritan who was on a nearby boat, told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench “We knew they were in trouble and we took 4 people from the boat. It was fully engulfed in flames. You just do what you have to do in helping people.”

Peter D'Oench