And no, he wasn’t killed by a croc. Unfortunately, his wife may not know yet:
THE Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, is dead.
He 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.
He was swimming off the Low Isles at Port Douglas filming an underwater documentary when the tragedy occurred.
Ambulance officers confirmed they attended a reef fatality this morning at Batt Reef off Port Douglas.
Irwin’s body is being flown to Cairns.
It is believed Mr Irwin’s American-born wife Terri is trekking on Cradle Mountain in Tasmania and is yet to be told of her husband’s death.
Mr Irwin – known worldwide as the Crocodile Hunter – is famous for his enthusiasm for wildlife and his catchcry “Crikey!”.
The father of two’s Crocodile Hunter program was first broadcast in 1992 and has been shown around the world on cable network Discovery.
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.
That’s a shame. Steve was an interesting fellow, but considering his proclivity for extreme animal adventures, I guess I’m not completely surprised. Hat tip Drudge.
Update: Reuters has more:
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Steve Irwin, the quirky Australian naturalist who won worldwide acclaim, has died in a marine accident off Australia’s northeast coast, local media reported on Monday.
Queensland state government sources quoted by Australian Associated Press (AAP) said Irwin, 44, whose television show “The Crocodile Hunter” won international acclaim and popularized the phrase “Crikey”, was believed to have been killed by a stingray barb that pierced his chest.
He was filming an underwater documentary off Port Douglas when the accident occurred, the report said.
Sky Television also reported that Irwin had been stung by a sting ray.
Australian emergency officials could not immediately confirm the reports.
Irwin won a global following for his daredevil antics but also triggered outrage in 2004 by holding his then one-month-old baby while feeding a snapping crocodile at his Australian zoo.
Update II: Australia’s Courier Mail:
He dealt daily with all manner of dangerous creatures … giant crocodiles, poisonous snakes, komodo dragons … but it was a less obvious hazard that claimed the life of Steve Irwin.
Irwin had taken calculated risks with all sorts of wildlife for decades, relying on his knowledge of animal behaviour and personal experience to beat the odds.
For someone who spent so much time around killer animals, Irwin seemed to leave a charmed life.
So his demise was all the more shocking because it apparently involved a stingray, an animal regarded as dangerous but not as a killer.
It is understood that Irwin was swimming off the Low Isles off Port Douglas filming a documentary, a task Irwin has carried out on countless occasions.
Yet this time, Irwin, ever so careful around danger, was taken unawares when, apparently, a sting ray he was filming struck out with its tail, the venomous barbs fatally embedding in his chest.
The death brought to an end a career that began with his father’s Sunshine Coast theme park and developed into an international empire in which Irwin was a globally recognised brand.
Working with his American-born wife Terri, and later, children his Bindi and Bob, the Irwin phenomenon continued to grow.
He was as recognised in the USA as he was here, and was one of the best-known Australians on the planet.
Update III: Australia’s News.com:
THE fatal stingray attack on Steve Irwin may have occurred because the animal was startled or frightened, an expert said today.
Victoria Brims, a marine life expert from Oceanworld in Sydney, said the stingray that killed Irwin was most likely provoked.
“I am aware he was filming a documentary and his documentaries are usually very hands on. I can only assume that he had some kind of hands on or close contact with the animal who like us when we get afraid defended itself,” Ms Brims said.
Brims also said that for a sting to result in death the person involved had to be stung close to the heart and also have a reaction to the sting.
“For the most part people get stung on the foot when they accidentally tread on a ray and this can be no worse than a bacterial infection,” Ms Brims said.
“Their barbs are very strong and release poison if touched. It must have got him right near the heart but the barb would not have gone through his chest.”
Update IV: News.com is also saying that a stingray barb is as deadly as a bayonet.
Update V: According to marine experts quoted in ABC News Online, a stingray barb in the chest is almost impossible to survive because of the stingray’s protein-based venom that damages the heart. Seventeen people worldwide have been killed by stingrays and they were all hit in the trunk.