'Crocodile Hunter' Irwin Killed by Stingray
Hollywood stars, politicians and fans worldwide mourn conservationist
He was filming a segment for a series called "Ocean's Deadliest" when he swam over on top of a stingray, which turned and inserted the poisonous barb on its tail into Irwin's chest and pierced his heart. Although CPR was administered and emergency services was called, he was dead when medical staff arrived. Stingray stings are often merely painful, but the location of Irwin's sting made the injury fatal.
Irwin's wife Terri, a fellow conservationist, was trekking in Tasmania's Cradle Mountain and Lake St. Clair National Park when she received the news and rushed back to Queensland with the couple's two children: Bindi, 8, and Bob, 2.
Irwin became a worldwide celebrity from his television program "Crocodile Hunter," which was first broadcast in Australia and then picked up all over the world. He was known for his boundless enthusiasm, fearlessness when it came to tackling animals of all sizes and exclaiming "Crikey." He was occasionally criticized for approaching animals too closely, however, and created an uproar when he fed a large crocodile in a zoo pen while holding his infant son in one arm.
Irwin also made a mark on the big screen in 2002's "The Crocodile Hunters: Collision Course," in which his wife co-starred.
Since the news of his death, tributes have been pouring in from all over the world and include messages from politicians and Hollywood stars.
"It's a huge loss to Australia," says Australia's Prime Minister John Howard. "He was a wonderful character. He was a passionate environmentalist. He brought joy and entertainment and excitement to millions of people."
Fellow Aussie, "X-Men" actor Hugh Jackman, was still in shock after having visited Irwin's Australia Zoo on Saturday.
"Only two days ago my family finally fulfilled a promise to Steve and made it out to his zoo," says Jackman. "Today we mourn the loss of a great Australian. His enthusiasm, humour, passion and optimism was a beacon throughout the world. He is a great example of how much one individual can do to make our planet a better place. Both [my wife Deborra-Lee Furness] and I would like to send our deepest sympathies to his family and close friends at this difficult time. He was an inspiration. Totally devoid of pretension. He was the real deal. What you saw is what you got. His passion and love of life, family and nature was boundless. He was a colossus and will be sorely missed."
Oscar winner Russell Crowe, who became friends with Irwin four years ago, also released a statement: "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."