Seven years after TV personality Steve Irwin died from a stingray attack, the cameraman who was by his side is speaking out about what happened on Sept. 4, 2006.
Justin Lyons, the man that Australia's Crocodile Hunter had called his "best mate" and "right-hand man," shared Irwin's final moments during an interview on Australia's morning show "Studio 10."
After the "massive stingray" struck the wildlife expert, Lyons said 44-year-old Irwin "calmly looked up at me and said, 'I'm dying.' And that was the last thing he said."
Neither the Irwin family nor the Australia Zoo, which was managed by Irwin and now his widow Terri, has responded to a request for comment.
He revealed that the two of them were in chest-deep water at Batt Reef in Queensland, Australia, when they came across the "8-foot wide" stingray. The men were going for one final shot, where Irwin would swim up from behind the creature and Lyons would film it swimming away.
"I had the camera and I thought, 'This is going to be a great shot,' and all of a sudden, (the stingray) propped on its front and started stabbing wildly with its tail, hundreds of strikes within a few seconds," Lyons explained. "It probably thought that Steve's shadow was a tiger shark, which feeds on them regularly, so it attacked him. I panned with the camera as the stingray swam away. I didn't even know it had caused any damage. It wasn't until I panned the camera back ..."
Lyons said that he and the crew were able to get Irwin out of the water quickly and back to the main ship, but "the damage to his heart was massive."
The cameraman revealed that everything from the attack to performing CPR on Irwin was filmed. "We had this rule that if Steve was ever hurt or injured that we had to keep filming no matter what. That was the thing with him," Lyons said.
But don't expect to see that footage.
"Never" was Lyons response when asked if the images would ever air. "I don't know what's happened to it, but I suspect that it's gone. It'll never see the light of day, hopefully."
First published March 10 2014, 11:53 AM