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September 05, 2006

“Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin Dies

Aussie TV Star Killed By Stingray

Steve Irwin with his wife Terri,
daughter Bindi and son Bob

Steve Irwin, the gregarious Australian wildlife pursuer and environmentalist whose fate-tempting confrontations with crocodiles, venomous snakes and other dangerous creatures made him an international television personality, died Monday when he was attacked by a stingray while filming a documentary in the Great Barrier Reef off the northeast coast of Australia. The cause of death was apparently cardiac arrest brought on by stingray’s barb that penetrated his chest and lodged in his heart.

Irwin, who earned the nickname “Crocodile Hunter,” was 44 years old. He was filming television segments, including footage for a project titled The Ocean’s Deadliest, when he encountered the stingray.

Irwin was known around the world for his effusive personality, his signature attire of khaki shirt, shorts and hiking boots, and such catch phrases as “Crikey!” and “Isn’t she a beauty?” Upon news of his death, outpourings of sympathy came quickly from around the world, especially from within Irwin’s native Australia, where he was a national icon.

Irwin began appearing on television in the mid 1990s, and his various productions, most notably The Crocodile Hunter, were seen in more than 100 countries on cable television via the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet. He was also a frequent guest on such American talk shows as The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.

Although he was sometimes criticized for what some observers considered risk-taking stunts with potentially life-threatening wildlife, Irwin always maintained that he understood and operated within the bounds of safety, and despite the perceived attention-grabbing theatrics of some of some of his on-camera set pieces (such as leaping on the backs of crocodiles and wrestling with boa constrictors), he was a passionate environmentalist and preservationist who would never willfully endanger any person or animal.

In January 2004, he was publicly chided when he fed a crocodile with one arm while holding his one-month-old son in the other. Both Irwin and his wife insisted that despite appearances, the infant was never in serious danger.

Born Stephen Robert Irwin on February 22,1962, in a suburb of Melbourne, Irwin grew up in Queensland, where his parents, Bob and Lyn Irwin, operated a wildlife park that eventually became the Australia Zoo. Wild animals, including crocodiles, were a frequent presence throughout his childhood.

Irwin met his American-born wife, Terri, in 1991, when she was vacationing in Australia. She became his business partner and frequently appeared in his TV shows and the 2002 movie, The Crocodile Hunters: Collision Course.

In addition to his wife, Irwin is survived by an eight-year-old daughter, Bindi, and a two-year-old son, Bob.

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