Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin Killed
The Associated Press
September 03, 2006
Steve Irwin, the Australian television personality and environmentalist known as the Crocodile Hunter, was killed Monday by a stingray barb during a diving expedition, Australian media reported.
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'Crocodile Hunter' Steve Irwin Killed
September 04, 2006
A whole generation of kids have grown up with him, and they love reptiles. They love snakes. Those aren't creatures like pandas or bears that everyone goes 'ooh, ah' about. His enthusiasm, his passion got kids interested in wildlife and nature.
Steve Irwin, the ebullient Australian whose catch cry of "Crikey!" helped him rise to global fame as television's the "Crocodile Hunter," was killed Monday by a stingray while filming on the Great Barrier Reef. He was 44.
Irwin was in the water at Batt Reef, off the remote coast of northeastern Queensland state, shooting a segment for a series called "Ocean's Deadliest" when he swam too close to one of the animals, which have a poisonous barb on their tails, said John Stainton, a friend and colleague.
"He came on top of the stingray and the stingray's barb went up and into his chest and put a hole into his heart," said Stainton, who was on board Irwin's boat, Croc One, at the time.
Crew members called emergency services in the nearest city, Cairns, and administered CPR as they rushed to nearby Low Isle to meet a rescue helicopter. Medical staff pronounced Irwin dead when they arrived a short time later, Stainton said.
"It's just absolutely unbelievable," Nigel Marven, a well-known wildlife specialist who was a longtime friend of Irwin's, said on The Early Show. "To be killed by a big crocodile or bitten by a snake, you'd have believed it. But a stingray? There's only been three cases in Australia of deaths by stingrays in the last 100 years. Seventeen worldwide. So it's a tremendous freak accident."
Irwin was famous for his enthusiasm for wildlife and for regularly getting up close and personal with dangerous animals in his television program "Crocodile Hunter," which was first broadcast in Australia in 1992 before it was picked up by the Discovery network, catapulting him to international celebrity.
"He was an amazing man, and incredibly important for conservation," Marven said. "A whole generation of kids have grown up with him, and they love reptiles. They love snakes. Those aren't creatures like pandas or bears that everyone goes 'ooh, ah' about. His enthusiasm, his passion got kids interested in wildlife and nature."
Prime Minister John Howard, who hand-picked Irwin to attend a gala barbecue to honor U.S. President Bush when he visited in 2003, said he was "shocked and distressed at Steve Irwin's sudden, untimely and freakish death."
"It's a huge loss to Australia," Howard told reporters. "He was a wonderful character. He was a passionate environmentalist. He brought joy and entertainment and excitement to millions of people."
Irwin, who made a trademark of hovering dangerously close to untethered crocodiles, often leaping on their backs, talked mile-a-minute in a thick Australian drawl and was almost never seen in anything but khaki shorts and shirt, and heavy boots.
His ebullience was infectious and Australian officials sought him out for photo opportunities and to promote Australia internationally.
He rode the lovable knockabout image in 2002 into a feature film, "The Crocodile Hunters: Collision Course," and developed the wildlife park that his parents opened, Australia Zoo, into a major tourist attraction.
The public image was dented in 2004 when Irwin triggered an uproar by holding his month-old son in one arm while feeding large crocodiles inside a zoo pen. Irwin claimed at the time there was no danger to his son, and authorities declined to charge Irwin with violating safety regulations.
"(He was) not recklessness, I don't think," Marven said, "but he was certainly pushing the envelope. But, you know, all of us guys, we take calculated risks, and sometimes there's
Later that year, Irwin was accused of getting too close to penguins, a seal and humpback whales in Antarctica while making a documentary. Irwin denied any wrongdoing, and an Australian Environment Department investigation recommended no action be taken against him.
Irwin was born Feb. 22, 1962, in the southern city of Melbourne and was immersed in the Australian bush eight years later when his parents moved to Sunshine Coast in tropical Queensland and opened a reptile park.
Irwin was given a scrub python for his 6th birthday and was catching crocodiles by 9, according to details from the zoo. He worked as a crocodile trapper in his 20s, removing problematic animals from populated areas. In 1991, he took over the Australia Zoo when his parents retired.
News of Irwin's death spread quickly, and tributes flowed in.
At Australia Zoo in Queensland, flowers were dropped at the entrance; drivers honked their horns as they passed.
"Steve, from all God's creatures, thank you. Rest in peace," was written on a card with a bouquet of native flowers.
"We're all very shocked. I don't know what the zoo will do without him. He's done so much for us, the environment and it's a big loss," said Paula Kelly, a local resident and volunteer at the zoo, after dropping off a wreath at the gate.
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who used a photograph of his family at Australia Zoo for his official Christmas card last year, hailed Irwin for his work in promoting Australia as a tourist destination through projects such as one called "G'Day LA."
Stainton said Irwin's American wife Terri, from Eugene, Ore., had been informed of his death, and had told their daughter Bindi Sue, 8, and son Bob, who will turn 3 in December.
The couple met when she went on vacation in Australia in 1991 and visited Irwin's Australia Zoo; they were married six months later.
Stingray's have a serrated, toxin-loaded bard, or spine, up to 25 centimeters (10 inches) long on top of their tails. The barb flexes reflexively if a ray is frightened, and a sting to a person is usually excruciatingly painful but not deadly, said University of Queensland marine neuroscientist Shaun Collin.
Collin said he suspected Irwin died because the barb pierced under his ribcage and stabbed directly into his heart.
"It was extraordinarily bad luck. It's not easy to get spined by a stingray and to be killed by one is very rare," Collin said.
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