Biologists were angry about this story regarding Steve Irwin’s death by stingray encounter. The headline itself is what is problematic.
On September 4, 2006, Irwin and his cameraman, Justin Lyons sank into the waters soaking the Great Barrier Reef near Queensland, Australia. They had been in the area filming a series called Ocean’s Deadliest, when what Lyons described in an interview with Australia’s Studio 10 as a “massive” stingray approached Irwin.
Lyons then watched as the stingray stabbed Irwin “hundreds of times.”
Except that’s incorrect. That’s NOT what Justin Lyons says. At about three minutes into this video, Justin describes how the stingray “propped on its front and started stabbing wildly” upwards, “hundreds of strikes in a few seconds”, a defense mechanism against their main predator, sharks. At least one of strikes hit Steve and pierced his internal organs. The barb did not break off from the info related. In fact, Lyons did not even know Steve had been injured until he saw the blood in the water. You can watch/listen to the interview here.
So, the writer of this story inaccurately attributed a behavior to the ray. When called on the misinterpretation by shark specialist David Shiffman on Twitter (sharks are related to rays), the reporter faced down his critics and DIDN’T win. Here is the exchange.
It was also noted that Lyons’ observation of long ago were likely inaccurate with regards to “hundreds of times” and perpetuating such a story was unethical. It is unclear if the strikes hit Irwin multiple times because only one wound is noted. But it may have been “dozens” of movements by the ray, not “hundreds” which is an exaggeration. I could not find mention of this rapid movement in rays.
Steve Irwin died doing what he loved. He would not have appreciated the demonization of the ray that was just taking defensive action. It’s clearly difficult for Lyons to relate the story. He still retains the footage and does not want it aired ever.
Regardless, the reporter should change the story, it’s misleading and wrong and there is no excuse for it. Most people are not going to watch the video but retain the image of a very scary animal that was just defending itself.
Irwin’s accident was unfortunate and rare. He could not have been saved. Steve Irwin could not have been saved, says witness to stingray attack | The Guardian.