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Where is Steve Irwin’s tragic death on film? Heartbreaking last words and emotional plea

Today marks the 17th anniversary of the devastating death of Steve Irwin, the world-renowned wildlife expert affectionately known as The Crocodile Hunter.

Irwin’s tragic end came when he was fatally struck in the heart by a stingray while filming a segment for his daughter Bindi’s wildlife show, “Bindi the Jungle Girl”. His sudden death sent shockwaves around the globe, triggering an outpouring of grief from his legion of admirers. In a disturbing response to his passing, a series of revenge attacks were carried out against stingrays along the Australian coastline. These acts of vengeance were swiftly condemned by the executive director of Irwin’s conservation organization.

Despite his frequent encounters with dangerous creatures such as crocodiles, snakes, and sharks, Irwin had a steadfast rule that the cameras should never stop rolling. This led to the fatal incident near Australia’s Great Barrier Reef being captured on film by his crew.

Steve Irwin tragically died 17 years ago today after a stingray pierced his heart

Steve Irwin tragically died 17 years ago today after a stingray pierced his heart
Getty Images)

The whereabouts of this footage, however, remain a mystery. As Tommy Donovan, Irwin’s IMDb biographer, once said, “He tells his camera crew to always be filming. If he needs help he will ask for it. Even if he is eaten by a shark or croc, the main thing he wants is for it be filmed. If he died he would be sad if no one got it on tape.”

In a cruel twist of fate, Irwin, who was just 44 at the time, wasn’t even supposed to be at sea on that fateful day, September 4, 2006. Filming for his show “Ocean’s Deadliest” had been cancelled due to bad weather.

In a chilling recollection, John Stainton, director and close friend of the late Steve Irwin, recounts the tragic events that unfolded off the coast of Port Douglas. Bored at their hotel, Irwin, cameraman Justin Lyons and Stainton embarked on a small boat to Batt Reef for what should have been an innocuous encounter with some typically harmless stingrays.

John remembered: “Suddenly, he expressed interest in encountering some typically harmless stingrays. It should have been an innocuous encounter for a children’s program.” Upon spotting a 220lb ray resting on the ocean floor, both Steve and Justin waded into chest-deep waters, expecting the usually docile creature to swim away upon their approach.

Irwin was never afraid when it came to facing he most deadly animals

Irwin was never afraid when it came to facing he most deadly animals

However, the situation took a horrifying turn when the stingray raised its serrated tail, delivering “hundreds of strikes in a few seconds” to Steve as he passed over it. Unaware of the severity of the situation, Justin continued filming until he turned the camera back to Steve and saw him surrounded by a pool of blood, instantly realising something was gravely wrong. As the cameras rolled, Justin helped Steve onto their inflatable boat, rushing towards their main vessel, Croc One.

Throughout the journey, Steve writhed in agony from the venomous strike. Fearing a punctured lung, the crew applied pressure to the substantial wound on Steve’s chest. Justin painfully recounted: “He was struggling to breathe. Even if we had reached an emergency ward immediately, it’s likely we couldn’t have saved him due to the extensive damage to his heart.” In a desperate race against time, they motored back, with Justin shouting for a crew member to cover the wound.

As they implored Steve to hold on, they reminded him of his children, hoping to keep him fighting. In a stomach-churning turn of events, cameras captured the tragic moment when Steve, fully aware of the severity of his injuries, whispered his last words to Justin, “I’m dying.”

The scene shifted back to Croc One, where another cameraman took over filming as Justin desperately performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on Steve for an agonizing hour. Despite their best efforts, paramedics declared him deceased upon arrival. The horrifying stingray attack, the frantic attempts at resuscitation, and the medical interventions were all caught on tape.

Steve's children Bindi and Robert have never seen the footage, thankfully

Steve’s children Bindi and Robert have never seen the footage, thankfully

In the days that followed, the chilling footage was handed over to Queensland Police for investigation. Rumours swirled about the possibility of the footage being broadcasted, but Discovery Communications, the network responsible for catapulting Steve to fame, firmly stated that the footage would remain unseen.

John Stainton expressed his distress over the footage during an interview with CNN’s Larry King Live, stating, “I mean, it should be destroyed.” He added, “Once it’s released [by the coroner], it should never see the light of day. Never. Never. I’ve seen it, but I don’t want to see it again.”

Despite this, numerous individuals attempted to find the distressing footage online. In 2007, authorities announced they had destroyed all copies except one, which was entrusted to Steve’s grieving widow, Terri. Although Terri was aware of her husband’s wish for his death to be filmed, the existence of such footage proved overwhelming.

In a heart-wrenching revelation, Terri, in her 2018 interview with You magazine, shared her decision to destroy a video without even viewing it. This was no ordinary video but a fabricated one that circulated on YouTube following Steve’s death, garnering around 100 million views. Terri expressed her disgust at the exploitation of people’s grief through this completely falsified film. She stated: “That film was a complete fabrication, exploiting people’s grief.”

She further explained her reasons for not watching the actual footage, saying, “I’ve never watched the actual footage. Why would I? I know the circumstances of my husband’s passing.” Relief washed over her as she recalled how their children were spared from witnessing the tragic event, as they weren’t on the boat, which was unusual. She said, “I was relieved that our children weren’t on the boat, as they usually would have been. It would have been traumatizing for them to witness it.”

According to Terri, a copy of the video still exists, gathering dust in a police vault somewhere.

* This article was crafted with the help of an AI tool, which speeds up The Mirror’s editorial research. An editor reviewed this content before it was published. You can report any errors to [email protected]

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