The tragic news is going to spread among all ages — the death-by-stingray of Steve Irwin, the highly popular “Crocodile Hunter” who was not just a TV star all over the world but a particularly big star among young people — including elementary school kids who’d watch him on “Animal Planet”:
CROCODILE Hunter Steve Irwin has died after a stringray barb caught him in the chest.
The 44-year-old international TV star was swimming off the Low Isles at Port Douglas filming an underwater documentary when the incident happened.
Ambulance officers received a call to a reef fatality this morning at Batt Reef. The Queensland Ambulance Service said the call was received about 11am and an emergency services helicopter was flown to the boat with a doctor and emergency services paramedic on board.
Irwin had a puncture wound to the left side of his chest and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Irwin leaves his wife Terri and young children Bob and and Bindi.
His wife is understood to be trekking on Cradle Mountain in Tasmania and has yet to be told of her husband’s death.
Steve Irwin, the hugely popular Australian television personality and environmentalist known as the â€œCrocodile Hunter,â€? was killed Monday by a stingray during a diving expedition, Australian media said. He was 44.
Irwin was filming an underwater documentary on the Great Barrier Reef in northeastern Queensland state when the accident occurred, Sydneyâ€™s The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported on its Web site.
The Australian Broadcasting Corp. said Irwin was diving near Low Isles Reef near the resort town of Port Douglas, about 1,260 miles north of the state capital of Brisbane.
Queensland ambulance service spokesman Bob Hamil confirmed that a diver had been killed by a stingray off Lowe Isles Reef but refused to say who the victim was until relatives had been notified.
A rescue helicopter was sent from the nearby city of Cairns, and paramedics from it confirmed the diverâ€™s death.
â€œThe probable cause of death is stingray strike to the chest,â€? Hamil said.
Staff at Australia Zoo, Irwinâ€™s zoo in southern Queensland, said they had heard the reports but could not comment.
The AP also notes that Irwin has become famous and also controversial in recent years:
Irwin is famous for his enthusiasm for wildlife and his catchcry â€œCrikey!â€? in his television program â€œCrocodile Hunter,â€? which was first broadcast in Australia in 1992 and has aired around the world on the Discovery channel.
He rode his image into a feature film, and developed the Australia Zoo as a tourist attraction.
Irwin had received some negative publicity in recent years. In January 2004, he stunned onlookers at the Australia Zoo reptile park by carrying his 1-year-old son into a crocodile pen during a wildlife show. He tucked the infant under one arm while tossing the 13-foot reptile a piece of meat with the other.
Authorities declined to charge Irwin for violating safety regulations.
Later that year, he 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.
His death was huge news all over the world — and some websites even crashed:
Major Australian web sites reporting the death of Crocodile man Steve Irwin came to a standstill earlier today with many people unable to access www.news.com.au or www.smh.com.au or NineMSN. According to News Ltd who were the first to report the story it was presumed that the reported death of Irwin was the cause.
According to News Ltd and wire services Irwin was killed in a freak accident in Cairns, police sources said. It is understood he was killed by a stingray barb that went through his chest.
“A lot of the sites seem to be going up and down,” according to News.com.au producer Mark Higginson. “We lost NineMSN entirely. Although we don’t know for sure at this stage, I presume that the Steve Irwin story is to blame. We don’t know yet whether it’s local or international traffic that is responsible for this.”
He helped boost Australian tourism:
He has also starred in movies and has developed the Australia Zoo wildlife park, north of Brisbane, which was started by his parents Bob and Lyn Irwin. A Tourism Queensland spokeswoman today said the death was shocking and paid tribute to Irwin’s “enormous contribution” to his adopted state.
Louise Yates said it was impossible to quantify how much Mr Irwin had meant to the Queensland tourism industry. “I don’t think we could even estimate how much he brought us through his personality and his profile and his enthusiasm about Queensland,” she said. “It would be difficult to estimate how much he was worth. And it would be difficult to underestimate.”
She said Mr Irwin had been a larger-than-life ambassador.
“It’s not just what he brought but what he took with him when he travelled, his passion.” Australia Zoo, on southeast Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, employs more than 500 people and attracts thousands of visitors every day. But Ms Yates said it would be “unfair and unjust” to put a dollar value on Irwin’s worth to the state, because of how much he had given.
This kind of death will be felt more than that of a “normal” celebrity because Irwin offered young people a conservation message as well as entertainment value. Kids and young people became aware of wildlife and conservation concepts and facts through his demonstrations, performances, shows and his film. They will hear about this story…and they’ll feel a loss. And it’s still too early to speculate on what they will conclude from his death and the way in which he died (some parents may try to hide the details from their kids but the kids will find out).
You can count on one hand (barely) the number of people who truly and effectively can meld modern mass media and entertainment together and who also enjoy a mass international audience. So his loss for those who believe in spreading the word about wildlife and conservation to younger generations is a huge one, indeed.
As it will be to his wife and to his children.
Also see Wizbang.
— The doctor who treated Irwin said his cause of death was “highly unusual”:
Ed O’Loughlin was aboard the Emergency Management Queensland Helicopter which was called from Cairns at 11.21am (AEST).
Dr O’Loughlin said he had worked in north Queensland for several months and in Perth before that and had not come across a death from a stingray before.
“It would be highly unusual for a stingray to cause this type of injury,” Dr O’Loughlin said.
Irwin, 44, was being given CPR at Low Isles as the helicopter arrived less than one hour after the incident but Dr O’Loughlin said nothing could be done to save him.
“It became clear fairly soon that he had non-survivable injuries,” Dr O’Loughlin said. “He had a penetrating injury to the left front of his chest…He had lost his pulse and wasn’t breathing.”
–One expert says Irwin had little chance.
–He was hit in the heart and the attack was filmed:
FOOTAGE of Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin being fatally attacked by a stingray on the Great Barrier Reef has been handed to Queensland police as fans worldwide come to grips with the “freak” death.
Irwin, 44, was killed almost instantly when the stingray stabbed him in the heart with its poisonous 20cm barb as he snorkelled off Port Douglas, in north Queensland, yesterday morning.
His American-born wife, Terri, was trekking in Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain and Lake St Clair National Park when the news broke of her husband’s death and was last night being raced back to Queensland with her two children Bindi, 8, and Bob, 2.
“The footage shows him swimming in the water, the ray stopped and turned and that was it,” said boatowner Peter West, who viewed the footage afterwards.
“There was no blood in the water, it was not that obvious … something happened with this animal that made it rear and he was at the wrong position at the wrong time and if it hit him anywhere else we would not be talking about a fatality.”
Irwin hailed as a “true original.”
Crocodile Hunter website (down as of this writing)
His movie website
Wildlife Warriors (his conservation website)
His bio and also here.
Link to books about him.
Link to his DVDs.
SECOND UPDATE ADDITIONAL LINKS:
—Fateful decision led to his death.
—European conservationists mourn Irwin.
—The camera loved Irwin.
—But he made some enemies.
—Irwin’s success puzzled some Australians
—But he became the face of his nation.
—Transcript ABC News Australia on Irwin’s life and times.
—The Australian’s editorial on Irwin’s death.