Steve Irwin. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
The man who witnessed the last moments of Steve Irwin's
life has described how a massive stingray wildly stabbed the
conservationist "hundreds of times".
He also recounted the crocodile hunter's calm final words:
Justin Lyons has spoken for the first time since he filmed
the stingray strike out at Irwin in shallow water in far
north Queensland eight years ago.
Lyons said he and Irwin had headed out from the main boat in
an inflatable to find something to film when they came across
a "massive" stingray in chest-high water.
He said they finished filming except for the final shot which
was to be the stingray swimming away from Irwin,
contradicting speculation that Irwin had chased or provoked
Instead, the 2.4-metre ray struck out, possibly thinking
Irwin's shadow was a predatory tiger shark.
"I had the camera on, I thought this is going to be a great
shot, and all of sudden it propped on its front and started
stabbing wildly, hundreds of strikes in a few seconds," Lyons
said during an interview on Network Ten's morning show Studio
"I panned with the camera as the stingray swam away and I
didn't know it had caused any damage. It was only when I
panned the camera back that I saw Steve standing in a huge
pool of blood."
Lyons also said reports that a barb had stuck in Irwin's
chest were wrong.
"Contrary to what I read in the papers and what I heard at
the time ... (the stingray barb) didn't come out, Steve
didn't pull it out.
"It's a jagged barb and it went through his chest like hot
Lyons said Irwin knew he was in trouble and believed the
stingray had punctured his lung.
"He had a two-inch-wide injury over his heart with blood and
fluid coming out of it and we had to get him back to the boat
as fast as we can," Lyons said.
"He obviously didn't know it had punctured his heart ... even
if we had got him into an emergency ward at that moment we
probably we wouldn't have been able to save him.
"I was saying to him things like `think of your kids Steve,
hang on, hang on, hang on', and he calmly looked up at me and
said `I'm dying' and that was the last thing he said."
The stingray attack, the CPR and medical efforts were all
captured on film, but have never been released.
Lyons says he doesn't know where the footage is but believes
it should never be aired.
"Steve had this rule that no matter who was injured we had to
keep filming ... a second cameraman filmed the CPR," he said.
"Never (should it be seen), out of respect for everyone and
his family, I would say no.
"I don't know what's happened to it and I hope it would never
see the light of day."
Lyons has since made a documentary E-Motion, exploring the
effects of emotional trauma.