A shocking bootleg video of tragic Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin in the throes of death after his heart was pierced by a stingray's barb reveals the TV daredevil could have survived his horrific injury, says a top medical expert.
After studying the video, copied under suspicious circumstances from the original film shot by Irwin's crew, Dr. Gabe Mirkin tells RadarOnline.com the 44-year-old animal wrangler unwittingly hastened his demise by yanking the barb out of his chest.
"The stingray tail effectively acted as a plug — and the second he removed it, he bled to death," says the doc, who never treated the hero. "Steve Irwin didn't have to die."
The adventurous star, who was famed for grappling with giant snakes and crocodiles, perished 11 years ago on Sept. 4, 2006, while filming his Ocean's Deadliest documentary in chest-deep water off Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
After spotting the 220-pound, eight-foot-wide ray, Steve and cameraman Justin Lyons got out of his boat, Croc One, and approached the deadly giant.
But as he crowded the critter, the panicked beast began "stabbing wildly," whipping its serrated tail "hundreds of strikes within a few seconds."
One hit Steve and sank the barb deep into his chest. As his crew raced to get him medical aid, he pulled the barb from his chest and bled to death.
"He was in extraordinary pain. The damage to his heart was massive," Lyons said.
"I was saying, 'Think of your kids, Steve, hang on, hang on.
"He calmly looked up at me and said, 'I'm dying.' And that was the last thing he said."
As Radar reported, a thief was able to make a copy of Lyons' film before authorities locked it away.
Tragically, Dr. Mirkin says Steve's natural instinct to yank the stinger out proved fatal.
"The second he pulled it out" the blood flowed into his chest cavity and killed him, says the doc.
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