The stingray encounter that killed Animal Planet star Steve Irwin was reportedly caught on tape – but still, conflicting details about the Crocodile Hunter’s final moments are emerging.
The ray struck Irwin, 44, with the barb of its tail while he was filming bull stingrays for a TV documentary called Ocean’s Deadliest at Batt Reef, Low Isle off Port Douglas, Australia, at about 11:00 a.m. Monday.
Irwin’s manager, John Stainton, was widely quoted as telling reporters that he had seen footage of Irwin pulling the deadly barb from his chest before his death, the BBC reports.
But later, when CNN interviewer Rick Sanchez asked whether Irwin had pulled out the barb, Stainton said, “Don’t you hear a lot of rumors and, and stuff that goes around on these things? And it’s just absolute rubbish.”
Stainton also said he could not bring himself to watch the tape.
Ben Cropp, a cameraman who was on the reef when Irwin was killed, told The Australian newspaper he’d spoken to a member of the production crew who said he’d seen footage of the incident.
The tape shows Irwin in shallow water following a large stingray, Cropp said. The animal “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.”
The Australian reported Tuesday that police superintendent Mike Keating said investigators had viewed the footage. “There is no evidence that Mr. Irwin was intimidating or threatening the stingray,” he said. “My advice is that he was observing the stingray. There are no suspicious circumstances in relation to the death of Mr. Irwin”
But a rep for the state coroner told the paper, “Queensland police are continuing their investigation into Mr. Irwin’s death on behalf of the Cairns Coroner.”
Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced, though Queensland State Premier Peter Beattie said on Tuesday that Irwin would be given a state funeral if his family approved. Irwin leaves behind his American-born wife Terri, 42, daughter Bindi, 8, and son Bob, 2.
Also on Tuesday, Australia’s parliament paused to honor Irwin, who Prime Minister John Howard said had died in “quintessentially Australian circumstances.”
Other Australian notables have weighed in as well. Russell Crowe, who was friends with Irwin, said in a statement he was “unable to think about anything else” after hearing of Irwin’s death. “He was a great friend of mine. I loved him and I’ll be there for his family.”
Aussie actor Hugh Jackman said he was in shock, and had just visited Irwin’s Australia Zoo on Saturday. “Only two days ago my family finally fulfilled a promise to Steve and made it out to his zoo,” he said. “His passion and love of life, family and nature was boundless. He was a colossus and will be sorely missed. My condolences and thoughts are with his family.”