Stingray stabbed Crocodile Hunter Steven Irwin “hundreds of times”

“I’m dying,” were the Crocodile Hunter’s last words.

For the first time, Steven Irwin’s cameraman described on Sunday the death of the television icon, who rose to prominence blending a childlike ebullience with a incredible brazenness in handling the planet’s most dangerous creatures.

On September 4, 2006, Irwin and his cameraman, Justin Lyons sank into the waters soaking the Great Barrier Reef near Queensland, Australia. They had been in the area filming a series called Ocean’s Deadliest, when what Lyons described in an interview with Australia’s Studio 10 as a “massive” stingray approached Irwin.

Lyons then watched as the stingray stabbed Irwin “hundreds of times.”

“I panned with the camera as the stingray swam away and I didn’t know it had caused any damage,” he said. “It was only when I panned the camera back that I saw Steve standing in a huge pool of blood.”

Lyons said reports at the time that Irwin had removed the stingray’s barb from his chest had been inaccurate. “It [was] a jagged barb and it went through his chest like hot butter,” he said.

The Crocodile Hunter was quiet in his last moments. “I was saying to him things like ‘think of your kids Steve, hang on, hang on, hang on,’ ” Lyons recalled. “He calmly looked up at me and said ‘I’m dying.’ And that was the last thing he said.”

The cameraman had caught the carnage on film, but says it should never be aired. 

Terrence McCoy is a foreign affairs writer at the Washington Post. He served in the U.S. Peace Corps in Cambodia and studied international politics at Columbia University. Follow him on Twitter here.
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