Eight years after he lost his dear friend Steve Irwin in a stingray attack, cameraman Justin Lyons, who traveled the world with the famed crocodile hunter for 15 years, is finally opening up about that tragic day.
Lyons was the sole witness to the sudden attack and describes how “hundreds” of fatal strikes by a “massive, 8-foot-wide stingray” is what ended up killing his fearless friend.
The 44-year-old’s final words…”I’m dying.”
Lyons explains that the duo were exploring Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in Sep. 2006 as part of a nature documentary, when they came upon the stingray, which the cameraman describes as a “normally very calm” animal.
He told Irwin to get out of their inflatable boat and swim up behind the animal for a shot that would surely make it into the documentary. What happened next is still a blur to Lyons.
“All of a sudden, [the stingray] propped on its front and started stabbing wildly with its tail,” he says. “Hundreds of strikes in a few seconds.”
The attack happened so fast, in fact, that Lyons didn’t even realize what had happened.
“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,” he shares.
Lyons theorizes that the stingray probably thought Irwin’s shadow was a tiger shark, causing it to get spooked.
“They’ve got a venom on their barb, so I’m sure it was excruciatingly painful,” Lyons continues, describing how the deadly barb went right through Irwin’s chest “like a hot knife through butter.”
Once Lyons realized the seriousness of the injury, he tried to keep Irwin alert by talking about the animal expert’s kids.
“He just sort of calmly looked up at me and said, ‘I’m dying.’ And that was the last thing he said,” Lyons relays.
Irwin with children Robert and Bindi
The videographer swears that he will never release footage from that fateful day, “out of respect for [Irwin’s] family.” Watch the full interview below.