Houston Community News >> Steve Irwin, Crocodile Hunter Host Dies

9/4/2006 - Steve Irwin, the ebullient Australian whose catch cry of "Crikey!" helped him rise to global fame as television's the "Crocodile Hunter," was killed Monday by a stingray while filming on the Great Barrier Reef. He was 44.

Irwin was in the water at Batt Reef, off the remote coast of northeastern Queensland state, shooting a segment for a series called "Ocean's Deadliest" when he swam too close to one of the animals, which have a poisonous barb on their tails, said John Stainton, a friend and colleague.

"He came on top of the stingray and the stingray's barb went up and into his chest and put a hole into his heart," said Stainton, who was on board Irwin's boat, Croc One, at the time.

Crew members called emergency services in the nearest city, Cairns, and administered CPR as they rushed to nearby Low Isle to meet a rescue helicopter. Medical staff pronounced Irwin dead when they arrived a short time later, Stainton said.

"It's just absolutely unbelievable," Nigel Marven, a well-known wildlife specialist who was a longtime friend of Irwin's, said on The Early Show. "To be killed by a big crocodile or bitten by a snake, you'd have believed it. But a stingray? There's only been three cases in Australia of deaths by stingrays in the last 100 years. Seventeen worldwide. So it's a tremendous freak accident."

Irwin was famous for his enthusiasm for wildlife and for regularly getting up close and personal with dangerous animals in his television program "Crocodile Hunter," which was first broadcast in Australia in 1992 before it was picked up by the Discovery network, catapulting him to international celebrity.

Irwin was born Feb. 22, 1962, in the southern city of Melbourne and was immersed in the Australian bush eight years later when his parents moved to Sunshine Coast in tropical Queensland and opened a reptile park. Irwin was given a scrub python for his 6th birthday and was catching crocodiles by 9, according to details from the zoo. He worked as a crocodile trapper in his 20s, removing problematic animals from populated areas. In 1991, he took over the Australia Zoo when his parents retired.

News of Irwin's death spread quickly, and tributes flowed in.

"It was extraordinarily bad luck. It's not easy to get spined by a stingray and to be killed by one is very rare," Collin said.

(Contributed by CBS2.com)