If you’re unfamiliar with who ‘Crocodile Hunter’ Steve Irwin was and what he was all about, watch the above tribute video melodysheep made a few months back. He was an awesomely passionate conservationist and a very memorable figure from my childhood.
Justin Lyons, Irwin’s trusted cameraman, was in the water with him when a stingray attacked and tragically killed Steve in 2006. Last week Lyons appeared on the Australian morning talk show Studio 10 for an interview, and he revealed a few new details about the event that the media got wrong back then. According to him, the stingray’s barb wasn’t left behind in Steve’s heart and Steve didn’t pull it out – it simple made a 2″ gash in his chest. He also says that Steve knew the barb had at least pierced his lung, that his last words were, “I’m dying,” and that the crew kept filming even as they performed CPR – suspending disbelief and hoping that Steve would pull through.
Lyons also said that the stingray started “stabbing” upward “hundreds of times in a few seconds.” Perfect headline fodder for the media, but in reality Australians use the word “hundreds” like Americans use the word “tons”; Lyons really meant “a bunch” or a few strikes/second. Like this.
Now, I don’t want to completely vilify Lyons here. He clearly cared a lot about Steve and was a dedicated member of the tight-knit crew for 15 years, but the timing of this interview and his intentional release of new information is pretty darn slimy. It’s kinda sad, actually.
Around the three minute mark of Part 2 (after a commercial break), the conversation about Steve Irwin transitions to Lyons’ emotions after his death and how he coped with them. This is where the plug comes in. I don’t really feel like embedding it, but for your convenience, here it is:
Lyons has a new documentary out called E-Motions (which I won’t bother to link to) that covers what looks like something very close to pseudoscience to me. In the interview, he starts talking about negative emotions being trapped and “physically lodged” in the body and how the documentary has “simple techniques” that will help you remove them. Apparently they did a bunch of interviews with doctors and researchers and even quantum physicists (?), and the methods they describe have even cured cancer in some particular cases (again, ?). Psychosomatic symptoms are a real thing, but leaping from the psyche to cancer is a bit too preliminary a finding to start advertising.
Regardless of his film’s validity, doing this promotional interview has severed some ties with the Irwin family, as you can imagine. Bob Irwin (Steve’s Dad) responded to a request for comment by saying that Lyons should’ve minded his own business and didn’t have the right to reveal more than what the Irwin family was willing to say. Bob didn’t comment specifically on Lyons using Irwin’s death as a way of promoting his own documentary, but I can imagine how he feels.
The interview worked, but thankfully not in the way Lyons probably hoped. The media grabbed onto the perfect “Steve Irwin stabbed hundreds of times” headline and ran with it, and that’s what everyone read in the news last week. More than 260 online ‘journalists’ covered the interview, but the majority of them only embedded the first part and not the second. The result: 1.3 million views for Part 1, and just 83,000 for Part 2 at the time of this writing. The E-Motion trailer embedded on the home page of the site only has 22,000 views, and their official Twitter account has just 34 followers. Sales of the documentary were probably boosted by this publicity stunt – but this doesn’t seem to be a financial windfall for Lyons.
Again, all I know about Lyons is that Steve Irwin trusted him greatly for 15+ years as a crew member, but that doesn’t excuse him from doing this interview against the wishes of Irwin’s family. I don’t know why the Irwin family released so few details about the way Steve died and left the public to speculate incorrectly, but it wasn’t at all Justin Lyons’ prerogative to reveal the truth. He seems like a nice guy, which is why I have a hard time understanding why he’d consciously do a “world exclusive” interview about how a deceased friend died in order to promote a personal project. I realize that the emotions he felt after Steve’s death may have led him to explore psychosomatic symptoms and lead him to make this documentary, but that still doesn’t excuse him from revealing the details of Steve’s death that he did.
Is money really so powerful? Can it really warp someone’s thought process in such a way that this becomes a logical move? It’s unlikely that Lyons would’ve been on Studio 10 if he were only willing to say on-air that he experienced emotional trauma after Steve’s death which led him to make the documentary; both Lyons and the producers knew that this interview (or at least the first half of it) needed to be worthy of international news coverage. It needed to be “exclusive” or else it wasn’t worth doing.
Relatedly, why does the media so readily echo this kind of new information without asking why it’s being revealed 8 years later (and not even timed with Irwin’s birthday or death)? According to Google News, only 26 other online sources have bothered to mention how Bob Irwin feels about all of this (again, 260+ covered the interview itself) which I would say is the more important story here.
Justin Lyons, despite being the nice guy and good friend of Steve that he is, has made a mistake here (giving him benefit of the doubt). If Studio 10 told him that he wouldn’t be put on the air without revealing details of Steve Irwin’s death, he should have said no and respected the Irwin family’s wishes. That would have been the right thing to do, money be darned.
On a happier note, seeing this story reminded me to look up how Irwin’s family has been doing recently. Based on the video below, I’d say pretty awesome. Steve’s enthusiasm and charm is clearly present in his two kids, Bindi and Robert, and his wife Terri is still running the Australia Zoo in Beerwah, Queensland.
Good on them.