Steve Irwin’s final words – “I'm dying” – were spoken to Irwin’s longtime cameraman and friend Justin Lyons, who filmed the 2006 stingray attack that killed his mate. Seven years later, Lyons has finally revealed Irwin’s last few moments and how the Crocodile Hunter was stung hundreds of times until a stingray barb went through his heart.
According to NBC News on Monday, Lyons, the man that Australia's Crocodile Hunter had called his "best mate" and "right-hand man," opened up and shared intimate details during an interview on Australia's morning show "Studio 10."
The beloved wildlife presenter died back in 2006 when he was stabbed by an 8-foot stingray while filming in Queensland for a documentary.
The complete interview with Studio 10 can be seen here.
“It’s a jagged, sharp barb and it went through Steve’s chest like a hot knife through butter,” Lyon’s recalled.
Lyons was the only person to witness Irwin's final moments.
“Stingrays are normally very calm – if they don’t want you to be near them, they’ll swim away,” Lyons said. “We stood up and said, ‘One last shot. You swim up from behind the animal and I’ll try to get a shot of it swimming away.’”
That fateful decision is one that Lyons will forever second-guess.
“All of a sudden it propped on its front and started stabbing wildly with its tail. Hundreds of strikes in a few seconds,” the cameraman said.
Lyons said the stingray probably thought Irwin’s shadow was a tiger shark and acted to defend itself.
“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 and Steve was standing in a huge pool of blood that I realized something was wrong.”
Multiple media outlets reported at the time that Irwin tried to yank the barb from his chest. Lyons says that never happened.
“The stingray barb was a blade of about a foot extending out of the tail. Steve didn’t pull it out,” he confirmed.
Lyons said Irwin was in severe pain as the crew dragged him out of the water and into the boat.
“We assessed the situation for about five seconds. He had a two-inch injury over his heart with blood coming out of it,” he added. “He was in extraordinary pain – they've got a venom on their barb, so I knew it must've been painful.”
Lyons said he tried to keep Irwin alive; he told him to keep thinking about his family – wife Terri and his children Bindi and Robert – and that he would see them again. Sadly, Irwin passed moments later.
Lyons had never spoken about the tragic death of his friend before, and he held back tears as he described how he talked with Steve at the very end.
“As we’re motoring back, I’m screaming at one of the other crew in the boat to put their hand over the wound and we’re saying to him things like, ‘Think of your kids, Steve. Hang on, hang on, hang on.’”
“He just sort of calmly looked up at me and said, ‘I’m dying’. And that was the last thing he said,” Lyons continued.
“We hoped for a miracle. I did CPR on him for over an hour before the medics came, but then they pronounced him dead within 10 seconds of looking at him.” he said.
The footage of Irwin's death has been a source of controversy since 2006. Despite various YouTube videos claiming to be “official” footage of Irwin’s death, Lyons said he never released it, sold it and does not know where it is to this day. He believes it should never be aired out of respect for his good friend’s family.
“I don't know what's happened to it and I hope it would never see the light of day,” he said.