Here's What Happened To The Footage Of Steve Irwin's Death

By the time Steve Irwin actually died, the cameraman had stopped filming. According to Irwin's longtime filming partner, Justin Lyons, when the 8-foot-wide stingray "propped up on its front and started stabbing wildly," puncturing the television personality known as The Crocodile Hunter in the chest, he didn't even realize Irwin had been injured — at first.

Lyons told Australia's "Studio 10" eight years after the sudden and horrifying 2006 incident that the men were on the water that day to get some footage for a documentary called "Ocean's Deadliest" when they happened on the massive stingray swimming in chest-deep water. They were getting one last shot of Irwin behind the marine animal with the ray swimming away, but according to Lyons, when Irwin came behind it, it went on the offensive. Lyons theorizes the ray may have seen Irwin's shadow and thought the shadow belonged to a predator.

When the ray swam away after the sudden attack, Lyons said he kept filming the animal as it swam, not realizing the ray's barb had actually been stabbing Irwin, until he panned his camera back toward Irwin and saw the amount of blood Irwin was standing in. According to what Lyons told Australia's "Studio 10," Irwin stood up in the water and screamed, "it's punctured me lung!"

Worse though, according to Lyons, was the 2-inch-wide puncture over Irwin's heart where blood and fluid were spilling out. As they rushed Irwin to shore his last words were, "I'm dying," Lyon's said.

Steve Irwin loved to get up close to dangerous animals

The news of Steve Irwin's death was both shocking and then again, not so much. For over a decade people in more than 200 countries tuned in to watch Irwin's TV series "The Crocodile Hunter," according to Biography. The friendly and exuberant animal lover would engage viewers by getting way too close to animals that could kill him, especially reptiles. Venomous snakes were a favorite, and of course, Irwin had no qualms with getting up close and personal with crocodiles.

Yet Irwin's enthusiasm for all animals was infectious. He showed the world an up-close look at animals that many people instinctively avoided and recoiled from, and we all marveled at either his bravery or at his remarkable lack of fear that some may have considered unwise. But no one could deny Irwin's authenticity and true admiration for all creatures, regardless of their deadliness. 

That genuine love for getting up close and personal with potentially dangerous animals evolved into a TV series after Terri and Steve Irwin got married in 1992 and the newlyweds spent their honeymoon helping to relocate a "problem crocodile" in north Queensland, per The Australian Zoo. They made a documentary out of it, which became the predecessor to the hit show "The Crocodile Hunter." 

Irwin spent hours in front of cameras messing with deadly animals. That an animal attacked him on video almost seemed inevitable. What was more surprising was that the animal that did him in was a usually gentle stingray. 

Irwin's wife said the video of the stingray attack has been destroyed

The ray's assault on the beloved and animated Australian wildlife conservationist was all caught on video. According to Reuters, that video was considered evidence in the investigation of what happened to Irwin. It was initially handed over to investigators who used the video to understand exactly how Irwin had died and what had caused the sudden attack. Reuters reported that Irwin died on September 4, 2006, and by January the authorities had finished their investigation and destroyed all the copies of the video, save one.

That final copy was handed over to Irwin's wife, Terri Irwin. According to Reuters, Terri told "Access Hollywood" in 2007 that she destroyed the last video footage of her husband's encounter with the massive stingray at the Great Barrier Reef. The video channel SWNS posted one final video on YouTube of Irwin before he got into the water that day. Irwin is seen in a dinghy near a larger boat. His trademark enthusiastic smile is missing as he looks intently at someone on the bigger boat, adjusts his hat, and gives the okay symbol with his fingers.

Though Steve Irwin lost his life while filming the documentary, "Ocean's Deadliest" was still released on Animal Planet in January 2007 as a two-hour special, according to Reuters, using much of the footage Irwin had already filmed. Terri told "Access Hollywood" that she was pleased about that.

"We're very proud that Steve's last documentary is going to air and that's his last footage with wildlife," she said.