The uncle of the man whose right forearm was severed while a ferry was being moved in western Quebec on Thursday says he's heard that the forearm can't be reattached.

Don McColgan owns the Quyon Ferry, which runs between Fitzroy Harbour, Ont., and Quyon, Que.

His nephew and employee, 32-year-old Harold McKenny, was helping move a new ferry from one side of a dock to another on Thursday when a rope came undone with such force that his arm was severed.

The nylon rope was being used to anchor one end of the ferry while the other was being towed from the shore, McColgan said.

Statement posted on Quyon Ferry Facebook page

Trying to put words together after yesterday’s tragic accident to one [of] our own seems to be near impossible.

A father of two and a husband, a son and brother; a second son to my mom and dad, a brother to his colleagues, who he has worked so close with for so many years, and a friendly familiar face to thousands of ferry users. We are all shocked and devastated and pray that Harold has a safe and speedy recuperation, and that his "upbeat" personality helps [him] and his family through this difficult time.

We thank his Ferry colleagues, Magnalum employees, the local volunteers, doctors, nurses and paramedics who acted swiftly and bravely yesterday to help Harold.

We never know how quickly our lives can change, and yesterday’s accident is a reminder that each day is a gift to be treasured.

"There was considerable tension going on the rope, so we'd stopped the tow truck," McColgan recalled Friday. "And my nephew, an employee of the ferry, was working near the rope. And I think he was trying to get the knot out of the rope, and I guess when he finally did there was too much tension and the slack part of the rope on the deck just acted like a slingshot … shot up, and we heard a pop.

"And I saw my nephew reach for something, at that stage he hadn't even said a word about it, then all of a sudden he screamed and ran down the deck of the ferry towards the shoreline. We realized then that he had lost about half his arm just below the elbow."

McColgan, other nephew found limb in water

McColgan was on a different ferry at the time. Other workers grabbed the keys to his truck and rushed McKenny to the hospital in Shawville, Que.

McColgan and another of his nephews jumped into the water to find McKenny's limb. They wrapped it in a bag, then others quickly drove it to the hospital in Shawville, McColgan said.

McKenny was stabilized in Shawville, and was later driven in an ambulance to a hospital in Montreal where doctors hoped to reattach the limb.

"The Transport Canada health and safety inspector that was up this morning said he was talking to … my nephew's wife, and she said that they tried to attach it but it was too crushed to enable them to reattach it," McColgan said.

Three Transport Canada investigators have looked into the incident and have now left Quyon Ferry, which continues to operate as normal.

McColgan said he's devastated by the incident. His newphew has been working with him for at least 15 years, he said.

"Every time you think about it, it's pretty emotional," McColgan said.

"When the knot came undone, it just acted like a slingshot. He had no time to react whatsoever … he didn't even realize what had happened."