Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Steve Irwin's Last Words

I was a fan of Steve Irwin, and not just because I like Australian accents. I loved watching him interact with animals, sometimes very dangerous ones, on his television shows. And when it was decided to base a feature film on his TV series, I thought a great job was done with the theatrical release The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course.


The film was panned by some as being not much more than you could see on television for free, but I think it's a very good, entertaining family film. True, Steve Irvin and his wife's scenes were basically unscripted documentary stuff, with the rest of the plot just a device to make it all come together in some sort of goofy story involving CIA agents, but it worked. I wish he had made more movies like it.

When I heard he died, I was at work. I was greatly saddened and my girlfriend and I communicated about it that day. She's very sensitive about celebrity deaths (I mean, she cried over Whitney Houston) and I'm usually not, except for the curiosity factor on how they died, which is almost always involved, unless it was some old celebrity that no one under 40 has heard of (Deanna Durbin, anyone?) and you know that at 95 they were basically dead already. But Irwin's death did have a small effect on me, and my feelings of brief sorrow at his passing were, I think, genuine.

The original news reports at the time said that Steve Irwin had reached for and pulled out the foot-long stingray bard that had pierced his chest, but now we have eyewitness testimony from cameraman Justin Lyons that contradicts that and tells the rest of the tragic story:

He said the stingray had a ‘jagged barb’ which ‘went through his chest like hot butter.’

‘He had a about a two-inch injury over his heart with blood-fluid coming out of it,’ said Mr Lyons. ‘He was in extraordinary pain. [The stingrays] have got venom on their barb, so I’m sure it was excruciatingly painful.

‘Even if we’d been able to get him into an emergency ward at that moment, we probably wouldn’t have been able to save him because the damage to his heart was massive.'

Mr Lyons, who has not spoken about the tragic death of his friend before, held back tears as he described Mr Irwin’s last moments.

‘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.’ -'I'm dying': Cameraman reveals final words of Steve Irwin and describes how Crocodile Hunter was stung hundreds of times by stingray until a barb went through his heart

Apparently the whole horror was caught on film, per Irwin's standard instructions to keep filming no matter what:

Mr Irwin had a rule that his crew were to keep filming no matter who was injured and so the stingray’s attack, the CPR on Steve and his death were all caught on camera.

His cameraman friend says he doesn't know what happened to the film and hopes it never surfaces. Certainly understandable. I always wonder what goes through the mind of someone so young when they know they're dying and they had no warning of such an imminent death. Knowing you will never see your loved ones again, knowing this is the end. It's the horror of the whole of conscious human existence in microcosm.



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