The only man who witnessed Steve Irwin’s death spoke publicly for the first time about the tragic final moments to Studio 10 on March 09. Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, was stung by a stingray in 2006 while shooting a documentary, Ocean’s Deadliest, on the Great Barrier Reef. His last words was said to be, “I’m dying.”
Steve Irwin is famous for his show The Crocodile Hunter, which debuted in Australia in 1996 and in North America in 1997. The first episode was footage of him and his wife, Terri, trapping crocodiles as part of their honeymoon. It had since turned into a success, showing in over 130 countries and to 500 million people worldwide. Irwin’s catchphrase, “Crikey!” has become synonymous with the legendary and late crocodile hunter. In the words of Sir David Attenborough, “he taught [people] how wonderful and exciting [the natural world] was, he was a born communicator.”
The cameraman of Steve Irwin, who was by his side for many of his adventures, said that on his final day in Queensland, Australia, they were on an inflatable boat when a giant stingray was spotted swimming through the water. Lyons told Studio 10 he and Irwin got out of the boat, only briefly planning out how they would capture the stingray on camera, which he described as being eight-foot-wide. The actual name of the sea creature is a bull ray, which is called that because of the shape of its distinct head.
The crew managed to shoot several minutes of footage, but before they concluded, revealed Lyons, they decided to shoot one more final shot. The plan was for Steve Irwin to swim behind the stingray so that Lyons could get footage of the creature swimming away from them. What followed were some graphic words to describe Irwin’s death, a very tragic final moment.
Lyons said he had himself in a perfect position for a great shot, but suddenly the stingray got onto its front and stabbed Irwin hundreds of times with its tail, all in a few seconds. The strikes were described as a sharp barb at the end, plunging rapidly into the chest of Irwin. Lyons described it as a “hot knife through butter.” Irwin then stood out of the water and said that the ray had punctured his lung, when actually it pierced his heart. It was believed, according to Lyons, that the stingray, after seeing Irwin’s shadow, thought it was being approached by a tiger shark, one of its predators.
Steve Irwin left behind two children, a son and a daughter, who at that time were three and eight years old. In his final moments, Lyons talked to Irwin, encouraging him to hang on, to think of his kids. It was then that Irwin said his last words, “I’m dying,” before losing consciousness. In describing the details of the incident, Lyons revealed that he believed if an animal would kill Irwin it would not be a shark or a lion – two creatures he made a legend of himself for capturing and handling. Lyons thought it would be a silly accident that would lead to his death, and the incident with the stingray was just that.
By Kollin Lore