Steve Irwin, crocodile hunter and Australian national treasure, died nearly 8 years ago when he was attacked by a stingray while working on a documentary about the ocean's deadliest creatures.
Now Irwin's best friend and underwater cameraman, Justin Lyons—the only eyewitness to the sting that took Irwin's life—has come forward on Australian TV to discuss the crocodile hunter's final words: "I'm dying."
Lyons described Irwin's horrifying end to Australia's Studio 10:
"I had the camera on, I thought, 'This is going to be a great shot,' and all of sudden [the ray] propped on its front and started stabbing wildly, hundreds of strikes in a few seconds.
I panned with the camera as the stingray swam away and I didn't know it had caused any damage. It was only when I panned the camera back that I saw Steve standing in a huge pool of blood." ...
"It's a jagged barb and it went through his chest like a hot knife through butter." ...
"I was saying to him things like 'think of your kids Steve, hang on, hang on, hang on', and he calmly looked up at me and said 'I'm dying' and that was the last thing he said."
Lyons' decision to tell his story comes as Irwin's daughter, Bindi, faces criticism from animal rights groups and angry social media users. She signed on last week as a spokesperson for SeaWorld, a move she described as "carrying on Dad's footsteps."
The marine theme park is in the midst of a publicity campaign against the documentary Blackfish, a startling look at the lives of captive orcas, particularly SeaWorld's Tilikum.