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March 12, 2014

Cameraman recounts Crocodile Hunter's last moments

SYDNEY (AP) — Australia's famed "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin knew he was dying after a massive stingray stabbed him in the chest hundreds of times, the only witness to the fatal 2006 attack said in his first detailed public account of the beloved conservationist's death.

"We're saying to him things like, 'Think of your kids, Steve — hang on, hang on, hang on,'" Justin Lyons, Irwin's longtime cameraman, told Australia's Studio 10 morning show this week. "And he just sort of calmly looked up at me and said, 'I'm dying.' And that was the last thing he said."

In the nearly eight years since Irwin's death, Lyons has said little publicly about how the fatal encounter with the stingray unfolded. Now, he said, he wants to clarify exactly how Irwin died, including dismissing reports that his friend pulled the stingray's barb out of his own chest.

"The stories at the time of Steve's death — none of them were accurate because no one else was there," Lyons said in an interview Wednesday. "And that always bothered me."

Lyons is also speaking out now because he has just finished producing a documentary, "E-Motion," which examines the impact that repressing negative emotions can have on the body.

"I thought that it was a great way to illustrate my experience with Steve; holding onto these traumatic events can be very, very bad," he said Wednesday. "I'm happy that I've finally spoken about it publicly. It has been, I guess, a weight on my shoulders."

Lyons still vividly remembers the day he lost his friend, who rose to fame via his TV series, "The Crocodile Hunter." The two were shooting a wildlife documentary in the Great Barrier Reef when they spotted an 8-foot-wide stingray.

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