Inside the Fatal Dive of the Crocodile Hunter
September 5, 2006

It was the adventure that turned out to be the last mission for thrill-seeker Steve Irwin.

"Extra" has the final photo of the always smiling Irwin, courtesy of the New York Post, that shows the cameraman who would ultimately capture the Crocodile Hunter's deadly encounter on tape.

Irwin was known across the world for risking his life on land as he cavorted with the deadliest of creatures: killer snakes, poisonous spiders and of course, his trademark encounters with crocs.

Unfortunately, Irwin's final mission in the ocean was out of his element. Best friend and manager John Stainton was there as his best friend slipped away.

"I did see the footage and it's shocking," Stainton revealed. "It's a very hard thing to watch because you're actually witnessing somebody die."

While Irwin's body was transported by seaplane, wife Terri and their young children arrived home from vacation to see how their home, the Australian Zoo, had been turned into a shrine to their beloved husband and father.

Fans of the famed Irwin paid their respects by leaving flowers and notes.

As the reality of the tragedy settles in, authorities and Irwin fans alike are left wondering, what really happened?

"Extra" has learned the stingray weighed 220 lbs. Usually non-confrontational, the deadly sea creature attacks only in self-defense, as was the case in this unfortunate incident.  

Irwin's cameraman was filming in front of the stingray, and it became frightened and lashed out.

"The tail came up and spiked him," Stainton continued. "He pulled it out, and the next minute he's gone."

But did that move cost him his life? Irwin was first pulled on board alive but lost massive amounts of blood and suffered a heart attack.

Aussie authorities revealed the video footage of Irwin's death is in the hands of the coroner and will never be seen by the public.

On Tuesday, Hollywood sent their condolences to Irwin's family and his memory, including friend and fellow Aussie Russell Crowe, who called Irwin, "the ultimate wildlife warrior. He touched my heart. I believed in him. I'll miss him."

Irwin, loved by Americans and Australians alike, had always been a dear friend to "Extra." And in his last interview with us, Steve uttered what are now chilling words.

"All my life, whether it be in front of the camera or not, I've been protecting people from potentially fatal wounds," Irwin said.

But in the tragic final moments, Steve Irwin was helpless to protect himself.


All of "Extra" at a glance
Get the early word on what’s coming up on Extra -- subscribe now!
Behind-the-scenes at "Extra"
Extra in Your Area
When It's On