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Steve Irwin's cameraman relives the Crocodile Hunter's tragic final moments

Steve Irwin's cameraman relives the Crocodile Hunter's tragic final moments

Cameraman Justin Lyons has opened up about the Steve Irwin's final moments and where he thinks the footage of his fateful death may be.

Cameraman Justin Lyons has opened up about Steve Irwin's final moments and where he thinks the footage of his fateful death may be.

Steve Irwin - a.k.a the Crocodile Hunter - passed away on 4 September, 2006, at the age of only 44 years old, after being attacked by a stingray while filming in the Great Barrier Reef.

The Australian zookeeper and environmentalist starred in multiple television series which documented his daring escapes into the wilderness, catching on camera his up-close interactions with multiple dangerous animals.

Justin Lyons accompanied Irwin on many of his expeditions, working on the docuseries The Crocodile Hunter for over 10 years - as well as Bindi the Jungle Girl when Irwin sadly passed away.

Lyons has since spoken out about Irwin's last moments and if the mystery video which recorded the conservationist's death may still be out there.

While waiting for tiger sharks to rise to their bait in the Great Barrier Reef, Lyons explained how Irwin grew restless.

"We never wasted a minute. We were always shooting and because we had some spin-off shows, we used every frame of every shot," Lyons recalled.

So, Lyons and Irwin decided to hop onto a separate inflatable boat and go out and scour for tiger sharks around the sandy flats.

They soon spotted a stingray, who Lyons noted the pair had filmed 'dozens of times before in deep and shallow water'.

The cameraman told Daily Mail Australia: "We knew the behaviour. We weren't scared of them, Steve had handled them and filmed with them. We thought this was going to be a joy. [...] We were swimming around him, he'd glide off and settle on the bottom."

Steve Irwin passed away at the age of 44 after being attacked by a sting ray.
PA Images/ Alamy Stock Photo

However, the stingray was the 'biggest bull ray' Lyons had ever seen - six-foot wide with a 'jadded-edge barb' on the end of its tail - and when the pair were trying to film their final shot, the situation quickly went downhill.

Lyons recalled: "[Irwin] swam up right over his tail. Instead of swimming off, [the bull ray] propped himself on the front of its wings and pushed his rear end up and started madly stabbing with his tail towards Steve.

"The water boiled with bubbles, thrashing and whatnot. The entire time I was locked on Steve. I didn't know what was going on, I could see it was trying to stab Steve and he was pushing him away but it was over in about 10-15 seconds.

"The stingray swam off so I panned to film Steve swimming away. It wasn't until I panned back and the water around him was already filling with blood that I realised."

Irwin suffered two fatal punctures to his lungs. Despite the team's best efforts to perform CPR as they rushed the zoo keeper to shore - recording as they did due to Irwin's 'premise someone had to keep filming regardless of the situation' - the conservationist had already passed away.

The footage of Irwin being stung by the stingray was lost when the team cut off the inflatable boat to race to shore quicker, however it was later retrieved and shown to the team before being given to the police.

Other cameraman Pete West admitted he had seen the footage, but told Lyons he hadn't made a copy.

"My gut instinct says he did make a copy but it's never seen the light of day," Lyons said.

Irwin passed away on 4 September, 2006.
Brian Elliott/ Alamy Stock Photo

There was subsequently allegedly only ever one copy of the tape which recorded the moment Irwin was killed according to Irwin's manager and film director John Stainton.

Stainton previously stated as soon as police had viewed the footage the recording was erased.

However, Lyons told the outlet he believes the footage 'still exists' and is 'tucked away'.

Although, Lyons did note the recording should 'never see the light of day' and resolved: "I would say it's unlikely it would ever come out. I can't see if Terri [Steve's wife] found the courage to watch it. If copies do exist, it'll go to Terri's grave and whether the kids keep it. If she's got the only copy."

If you have experienced a bereavement and would like to speak with someone in confidence, contact Cruse Bereavement Care via their national helpline on 0808 808 1677 

Featured Image Credit: PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo/Allstar Picture Library Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

Topics: Steve Irwin, Animals, no-article-matching, Australia