The photographer who was alongside adventurer and Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin when he was fatally injured by a stingray barb is speaking out about the tragedy for the first time.
Appearing on Australia’s Studio 10 program, Justin Lyons recalled the day the pair were filming off the coast of north Queensland when they came upon a giant bull ray back in September of 2006.
They proceeded to get in the chest-deep water with the creature and began filming with it, noting that the rays are usually “very calm,” according to Lyons.
They were taking “one last shot” when all of the sudden “it began stabbing wildly with it’s tail.
“It probably thought Steve’s shadow was a tiger shark, which feeds on them very regularly so it started to attack 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 that Steve was standing in a huge pool of blood that I realized something had gone wrong.”
Lyons — who Irwin called his best friend and right hand man — recalled how at that point they just needed to get out of the water as the blood could possibly attract sharks.
He described the wound saying, “It went though his chest like a hot knife through butter.”
Lyons revealed that Irwin thought the ray had punctured his lung, when instead the venomous barb struck the 44-year-old in the heart.
While on the raft taking them back to their primary ship, Lyons tried to stem the bleeding and told Irwin to think of his kids and “hang on, hang on, hang on” but “he just sort of calmly looked up at me and said ‘I’m dying’… and that was the last thing he said.”
The cameraman revealed that he hoped for a miracle and did CPR on Irwin for over an hour before medical rescuers arrived and pronounced him dead.
As for the video of the tragic accident, Lyons shared “I don’t know what’s happened to it and I hope it would never see the light of day.” See the video here.