Famous Crocodile hunter killed


Australia's 'Crocodile Hunter' Steve Irwin
Australia's 'Crocodile Hunter' Steve Irwin . REUTERS/Will Burgess/Files (AUSTRALIA)
BRISBANE, Australia - Steve Irwin, the hugely popular Australian television personality and environmentalist known as the "Crocodile Hunter," was killed Monday by a stingray during a diving expedition. He was 44.

Irwin was filming an underwater documentary on the Great Barrier Reef in northeastern Queensland state when he was stung, Sydney's The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported on its Web site.

He collapsed at Batt Reef, near Low Isle and the resort town of Port Douglas, Queensland state police said in a statement. Port Douglas is about 1,260 miles north of Brisbane, the state capital.

A rescue helicopter rushed to the scene but Irwin had died, the statement said.

Queensland ambulance service spokesman Bob Hamil confirmed that a diver had been killed by a stingray off Lowe Isles Reef and said cause of death appeared to be a "stingray strike to the chest."

Irwin was famous for his enthusiasm for wildlife and his catchword "Crikey!" in his television program "Crocodile Hunter," 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 month-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.

Irwin was also seen as a vocal critic of wildlife hunts in Australia. The federal government recently dropped plans to allow crocodile safaris for wealthy tourists in the Northern Territory following his vehement objections.

Irwin told the Australian television program "A Current Affair" that "killing one of our beautiful animals in the name of trophy hunting will have a very negative impact on tourism, which scares the living daylights out of me."

He is survived by his American wife Terri, from Eugene, Ore., and their daughter Bindi Sue, 8, and son Bob, who will turn 3 in December.

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 through projects such as "G'Day LA," an Australian tourism and trade promotion week in Los Angeles in January.

"The minister knew him, was fond of him and was very, very appreciative of all the work he'd done to promote Australia overseas," Downer's spokesman Tony Parkinson said.

Stingrays have flat bodies and tails with serrated spines, which contain venom and can cause cuts and puncture wounds. The creatures are not aggressive and injury usually occurs when a swimmer or diver accidentally steps on one.


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