Known across the planet as the Crocodile Hunter, the TV presenter, actor and conservationist
Steve Irwin was killed earlier today near Port Douglas, Queensland, hard at work making a new documentary on Australia's beautiful, and sometimes incredibly deadly, marine life.
In what is being widely described as a freak accident, the long, razor sharp barb of a large stingray is believed to have entered his chest, causing his death in less than two hours.
Here's a good, quick-read obituary. His love of Australia's wildlife, in particular crocodiles, was instilled in him from his earliest years, and he deeply admired his father, an avid wildlife protector and part-time adventurer :
...the (Irwin) family's consuming passion was rescuing and rehabilitating local (Queensland) wildlife.As the Australian media scrambles to cover the story, marine life experts are being innundated with questions about how many people have actually died after being stung by a stingray. Some experts in Queensland say none, never heard of such a thing. Others outside of Australia say such deaths are not as common as shark bite deaths, but they are not completely unknown.
In 1970 the hobby became a full time operation when the Irwins opened the Beerwah Reptile Park.
Irwin recalled how, even with the advent of a formal facility, the family home was itself a mini zoo and wildlife hospital, with makeshift marsupial "pouches" slung over the backs of chairs and snakes stashed everywhere.
The young Irwin came to share his parents' obsession with wild creatures, and he soon displayed an uncanny rapport with them, able to sense their moods and preferences intuitively
...stingrays have poisonous spines that can inject venom deep in to the unwary victim, causing excruciating pain. Handle all fish with care, avoiding the spinous areas along the backbone and around the gills.From the early reports, it sounds like Steve may have been stung close to the heart, as the stingray's barb is believed to have actually pierced his chest.
Reports of divers being stung by stingrays are not uncommon, but usually the stings occur on the feet or the legs. People can become violently ill from such stings, but stings to the chest, and in particular reports where the venomous 'spike' of the tail actually enters the chest, are extremely rare.
There will no doubt be much fear amongst the Queensland, and particularly Cairns, tourism industry over his death.
Dive boat operators will now be questioned by tourists on just how dangerous it is to get in the water with stingrays.
How will they be able to deny that stingrays can kill?
Steve Irwin became famous for his theatrical wrestling of crocodiles, but stingrays will be viewed with fear and dread now they have claimed the life of Australia's most famous son.
Terrible news. He was one of the best friends Australia's shrinking rainforests and increasingly threatened wildlife has had in a long time. His TV shows, watched by hundreds of millions of people around the world, regularly featured him talking about the rare beauty of the Australian wilderness, and why it was so important to preserve it for the good of the country, for the benefit of the tourism industry and for future generations of Australians.
See you later, Steve. You were a top bloke. We'll miss you plenty.
Go here to read tributes from Australian fans to Steve Irwin.
Another board of tributes and comments can be found here.
We'll post links to other news boards of comments and tributes. Can't supply the links right now. At least major Australian news comments boards have crashed due to the overwhelming number of people who want to say goodbye.
UPDATE : I should point out that the tributes and goodbyes pouring in to Australian news sites are now also coming from people in the US, the UK, all across Europe, Russia, Turkey, all across the Middle East, New Zealand...indeed, most of the known world that is hooked up to the net.
STINGRAY "FEAR FACTOR" MEDIA FREAKOUT BEGINS
It only took a few hours after the death of Steve Irwin was confirmed for some of the Australian media to begin ramping up The Fear over the dangers of stingrays. The best quotes so far have come from the wildlife expert and film-maker long regarded as the original Crocodile Hunter :
"...they (stingrays) are very dangerous.Go to The Orstrahyun blog for more updates and links on this tragic and extremely sad loss.
"They have one or two barbs in the tails which are not only coated in toxic material but are also like a bayonet, like a bayonet on a rifle.
"If it hits any vital organs it's as deadly as a bayonet."