Steve Irwin's Cameraman Recounts Crocodile Hunter's "Painful" Death for First Time
Rest in peace, Crocodile Hunter. Justin Lyons, the cameraman and "right-hand man" for the late Steve Irwin, spoke out for the first time on the tragic 2006 death of the Crocodile Hunter star. Lyons appeared on Australian morning show Studio 10 on Sunday, March 9, and recounted Irwin's final moments after he was fatally attacked by a stingray.
"It was shocking. It was probably always going to be something weird with Steve," Lyons explained the Animal Planet star's death. "I mean, a crocodile or a shark, he was so good with animals, nothing was going to get him. We thought he was going to live forever, but it would always be a crazy silly accident, and as it turns out that's exactly what it was."
Irwin and Lyons were filming off the coast of Australia, and trying to get a final shot of the stingray swimming away when the attack occurred.
"All of a sudden it propped on its front and started stabbing wildly with its tail, hundreds of strikes in a few seconds," Lyons recalls. "It probably thought that Steve's shadow was a tiger shark, which feeds on them very regularly . . . 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, that Steve was standing in a huge pool of blood, that I realized something had gone wrong."
Lyons denied previous reports that the stingray's barb came out during the attack. "It didn't come out. Steve didn't pull it out," he explained. "It's a jagged, sharp barb and it went through his chest like a hot knife through butter."
The cameraman said his partner, 44, was in "extraordinary pain," but he never gave up hope trying to save him.
"They've got venom on their barb, so, I'm sure, it was excruciatingly painful. He had an extraordinary threshold for pain, so I knew that when he was in pain it must have been painful," Lyons explained. "He obviously didn't know that it had punctured his heart, but he knew it had punctured his lung -- he was having trouble breathing. Even if we'd been able to get him into an emergency ward at that moment, we probably wouldn't have been able to say him, because the damage to his heart was massive."
Lyons performed CPR on Irwin for "over an hour," but said medics pronounced him dead "within 10 seconds of looking at him."
"I was saying to him things like, 'Think of your kids, Steve, hang on, hang on, hang on,'" Lyons recalled. "And he just sort of calmly looked up at me and said, 'I'm dying,' and that was the last thing he said."
Irwin is survived by wife Terri Irwin and kids Bindi, now 15, and Robert, now 10. The late Crocodile Hunter's family visited Good Morning America on March 6, and discussed how they are continuing Steve's legacy. "I'm so excited to be carrying on in dad's footsteps and making sure that everything he worked so hard for continues for the generations to come," Bindi said of working with SeaWorld's Generations Nature initiative.