3 Things You Didn’t Know About Steve Irwin, Including One Insane Crocodile Escape

Ten years after the Crocodile Hunter’s death, Irwin’s family and best mates shared tales from his life at the inaugural Steve Irwin Gala

It’s been ten years since Steve Irwin, otherwise known as The Crocodile Hunter, died in the field. On Saturday night, superfans of the late wildlife expert joined his widow Terri, son Robert, and daughter Bindi in DTLA for the inaugural Steve Irwin Gala Dinner memorializing the fearless conservationist and benefitting Wildlife Warriors. It’d be easy to say the most surprising part of the evening was the array of animal guests (indigo snakes, pythons, a menagerie of owls), but it was the tales and memories shared by Irwin’s friends and family that left us wowed. Here are the highlights:

Bindi Irwin—aka the latest winner of Dancing With the Stars—on her father’s two left feet:
“Dad was not exactly a dancer—mom pretty much cleared that up. She said there was no dancing at their wedding. You look at him and he was this living hurricane. That’s really who he was.”

Terri Irwin on how a croc hunter proposes:
“He came to see me in Oregon, and then I went back to see him in Australia, and we just worked. We worked in the zoo, and we were cutting down this widow-maker tree that had been hit by lightning and had to come down. It took us a day. We were absolutely exhausted. I’ve got leaves in my hair, I’m sweating, and we’re sitting there at the end of the day and I’m thinking,“My back is killing me.” Steve says,“So what do you reckon, you want to get married?” And I thought of my job, my life, my friends, my family, my everything in Oregon, and I said, “Sure!” There were no scented candles or rose petals. He just said, “What do you reckon?”

His “best mate” Wes Mannion, who worked with him at The Australia Zoo in Queensland, on one of many close calls with a croc named Graham:
“Out of the blue, Graham comes out of the water and grabs hold of the back of me. He’s a 12-foot croc weighing 600 kilos. He drives me into the fence, his top teeth were in the top of my hip, his bottom teeth were in the back of my leg. I remember going “Oh shhhh—crikey!” He dragged me into the water and started death rolling me before I ripped out of his mouth. Then, I’ll never forget it, I’m lying in the water, and I can see the silhouette—he’s a beautiful croc, it wasn’t his fault. He came over the top of me, and he’s just about to grab me on the head, and I swear to God, I closed my eyes and thought, “She’s all over,” because they’ve got 3,000 per square inch of jaw pressure. Next thing I know something punches me in the head. I open my eyes, and it was Graham’s tail; he’d swung around because Steve had jumped on the back of him. I jumped up, and Steve looked at me like I was a ghost and said, “Let’s get out of here!” He’d stuck a stick in his mouth, and we jumped over the fence. Without him I would have been killed. Without him, I would have been killed ten times over because he saved my life so many times.”