Goodbye To the Crocodile Hunter

Posted on September 5, 2006

Steve Irwin, known as The Crocodile Hunter, died yesterday after being stung by a stingray while snorkeling off the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Irwin was filming a children's documentary at the time. The barb entered his heart from under his ribcage, which experts said was tantamount to taking a sword through the heart. He died on the scene and paramedics couldn't revive him.

The video of the incident is being reviewed by police, and there are conflicting reports of what the tape actually shows.
The stingray encounter that killed Animal Planet star Steve Irwin was reportedly caught on tape but still, conflicting details about the Crocodile Hunter's final moments are emerging. The ray struck Irwin, 44, with the barb of its tail while he was filming bull stingrays for a TV documentary called Ocean's Deadliest at Batt Reef, Low Isle off Port Douglas, Australia, at about 11:00 a.m. Monday.

Irwin's manager, John Stainton, was widely quoted as telling reporters that he had seen footage of Irwin pulling the deadly barb from his chest before his death, the BBC reports. But later, when CNN interviewer Rick Sanchez asked whether Irwin had pulled out the barb, Stainton said, "Don't you hear a lot of rumors and, and stuff that goes around on these things? And it's just absolute rubbish." Stainton also said he could not bring himself to watch the tape.

Ben Cropp, a cameraman who was on the reef when Irwin was killed, told The Australian newspaper he'd spoken to a member of the production crew who said he'd seen footage of the incident. The tape shows Irwin in shallow water following a large stingray, Cropp said. The animal "probably felt threatened because Steve was alongside and there was the cameraman ahead, and it felt there was danger and it baulked. It stopped and went into a defensive mode and swung its tail with the spike."

The Australian reported Tuesday that police superintendent Mike Keating said investigators had viewed the footage. "There is no evidence that Mr. Irwin was intimidating or threatening the stingray," he said. "My advice is that he was observing the stingray. There are no suspicious circumstances in relation to the death of Mr. Irwin."

Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced, though Queensland State Premier Peter Beattie said on Tuesday that Irwin would be given a state funeral if his family approved. Irwin leaves behind his American-born wife Terri, 42, daughter Bindi, 8, and son Bob, 2. Also on Tuesday, Australia's parliament paused to honor Irwin, who Prime Minister John Howard said had died in "quintessentially Australian circumstances."
Australians weighed in on the death by the thousands, leaving tributes on websites and at Australia Zoo. Other statements included those from friend Russell Crowe and the Australian Prime Minister:
Russell Crowe: "He was the Australian we all aspire to be. He held an absolute belief that caring for the richness of our country, meaning specifically the riches of our fauna, was the highest priority we should have. And, over time, we might just see how right he was.

"He was and remains, the ultimate wildlife warrior. He touched my heart. I believed in him. I'll miss him. I loved him and I will be there for his family."

John Howard, Prime Minister: "I am quite shocked and distressed at Steve Irwin's sudden, untimely and freakish death. It's a huge loss to Australia. He was a wonderful character. He was a passionate environmentalist. He brought joy and entertainment and excitement to millions of people. He was a one-off character."
We loved Steve Irwin and his love for life, his family and his passion for wildlife conservation. He spent so much of his own money buying land for conservation purposes and trying to educate people about the importance of sustaining wildlife habitats. Our hearts go out to his wife Terri, his daughter Bindi Sue and his son Bob.

You can see the videos of Steve, post condolences and see tributes from his friends at the special memorial site set up by Discovery Communications, Inc.