Dramatic videotape of “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin’s last moments shows him pulling from his chest the poisonous stingray barb that killed him, officials said today, as tributes poured in for the beloved naturalist famed for getting dangerously close to deadly beasts.
Police said there were no suspicious circumstances in the death of Irwin, who was stabbed in the chest yesterday while snorkelling with a stingray while filming a television program on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and no evidence he provoked the animal.
John Stainton, Irwin’s manager who was among the television crew on the reef, said the fatal blow that struck the presenter and conservationist was caught on videotape, and described viewing the footage as having the “terrible” experience of watching a friend die.
“It shows that Steve came over the top of the ray and the tail came up, and spiked him here (in the chest), and he pulled it out and the next minute he’s gone,” Stainton said in Cairns, where Irwin’s body was taken for an autopsy.
The tape of the death of the man known by TV audiences worldwide for his infectious enthusiasm in the series “The Crocodile Hunter” was secured by Queensland state police as evidence for a coroner’s inquiry – a standard procedure in high-profile deaths or those caused by other than natural causes.
Irwin, 44, was shooting footage for a project he was making with daughter Bindi, eight, for airing next year in the United States when he was fatally stung off the north Queensland coast.
Today, his body was returned to the Sunshine Coast, where his American wife Terri, Bindi and their son, Bob, almost three, were keeping a low profile at their home near Australia Zoo, Irwin’s wildlife park. No funeral plans were announced, though Queensland Premier Pete Beattie said he would get a state funeral if the family agreed to it.