Video of croc hunter's attack called 'shocking,' 'terrible'*
'It's a very hard thing to watch because you're watching somebody die'
September 5, 2006
People who have seen footage of the stingray death of Australian
crocodile hunter Steve Irwin say the images are shocking and terrible.
Irwin, 44, was killed almost instantly yesterday when stabbed in the
heart by the creature's poisonous 20 centimeter barb.
Irwin's producer and life-long friend John Stainton handed the video to
police after the animal wrangler was stung by a stingray while filming
an underwater documentary on the Great Barrier Reef in northeastern
He told Sydney's 2GB radio it was the worst thing he'd ever seen.
"I have seen the footage and it's shocking," Stainton said. "It's a very
hard thing to watch because you're watching somebody die and it's terrible."
He said Irwin had not provoked the stingray, and was merely snorkeling
above it when he was attacked.
"He came over the top of a stingray and the stingray barb went up and
into his chest and into his heart," Stainton told the Australian
newspaper. "It's likely that he possibly died instantly when the barb
hit him, and I hope he felt no pain."
Boatowner Peter West, who viewed the video afterward, told the paper:
"The footage shows him swimming in the water, the ray stopped and turned
and that was it. There was no blood in the water, it was not that
obvious ... . Something happened with this animal that made it rear and
he was at the wrong position at the wrong time and if it hit him
anywhere else we would not be talking about a fatality."
Cameraman and spearfisherman Ben Cropp, a contemporary of Irwin, was
reportedly in his own boat off Port Douglas when Irwin was killed.
"I have just spoken to a cameraman friend who was there and has seen the
footage," Cropp told the Australian.
"He was up in the shallow water, probably 1.5 to 2 meters deep,
following a bull ray which was about a meter across the body – probably
weighing about 100 kilograms, and it had quite a large spine.
"The cameraman was filming in the water."
Cropp said the stingray got spooked and instantly became defensive.
"It probably felt threatened because Steve was alongside and there was
the cameraman ahead, and it felt there was danger and it balked. It
stopped and went into a defensive mode and swung its tail with the
spike. Steve unfortunately was in a bad position and copped it. I have
had that happen to me, and I can visualize it – when a ray goes into
defensive, you get out of the way.
"Steve was so close he could not get away, so if you can imagine it –
being right beside the ray and it swinging its spine upwards from
underneath Steve – and it hit him. I have seen that sort of reaction
with rays – with their tail breaking the water, such is the force."
Irwin is survived by his American-born wife Terri and their two
children, Bindi Sue, born in 1998, and Robert (Bob), born in December 2003.
Irwin is perhaps best known for his enthusiastic style of wildlife
watching and his catchphrases of "Crikey!" and "Look at this beauty!" in
his television program "Crocodile Hunter," which has aired around the
world on the Discovery channel since its debut in Australia in 1992.
Discovery president Billy Campbell said that it was too early to decide
what images – if any – viewers would see from Irwin's fatal encounter.
He had become such a part of Americana, that his character was even
spoofed on an episode of the cartoon series "South Park."