Steve Irwin, the maniacally energetic, cheerful, enthusiastic “Crocodile Hunter,” died yesterday when a stingray gored him in the heart. It was truly a freak accident because, had the barb gotten him anywhere else in the body, it’s likely he would have survived. It’s also a freak accident in that he wasn’t handling or interacting with the creature. Video footage of his death shows him swimming along when the stingray suddenly turns on him:
One of Irwin’s contemporaries, internationally known cameraman and spearfisherman Ben Cropp, was 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,” Mr Cropp told The Australian last night.
“He was up in the shallow water, probably 1.5m to 2m deep, following a bull ray which was about a metre across the body – probably weighing about 100kg, and it had quite a large spine. The cameraman was filming in the water.”
Mr Cropp said the stingray was spooked and went into defensive mood.
“It probably felt threatened because Steve was alongside and there was the cameraman ahead, and it felt there was danger and it baulked.
“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 visualise 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.”
I found Irwin’s energy a bit much, but my children loved watching him, and his incredible bravery around dangerous animals made for some interesting footage. The lawyer part of me, when thinking of his death, can’t escape the phrase “assumption of the risk” — that is, he consistently put himself in danger, so it’s unsurprising that something happened. The rest of me, though, is saddened that this vital young man, the father of two young children, should die in such a ridiculous, random accident.