AUSTRALIA: Croc Hunter's death on tape

Steve Irwin's manager describes footage of encounter with poisonous stingray

Straits Times
Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Fearless until the very end, a fatally injured "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin was caught on tape pulling a poisonous stingray barb out of his chest before losing consciousness and dying.

Video footage of the attack showed Mr Irwin swimming above the stingray on the Great Barrier Reef on Monday when it lashed out and speared him in the heart with its barbed tail, his manager John Stainton told reporters yesterday.

"It shows that Steve came over the top of the ray and the tail came up and spiked him here (in the chest)," Mr Stainton said after watching what he called "shocking" footage.

"He pulled it out and the next minute, he was gone. The cameraman had to shut down," he said. 'It is a very hard thing to watch because you are actually witnessing somebody die...it is terrible."

Mr Irwin, 44, the quirky Australian naturalist who won worldwide acclaim as TV's khaki-clad "Crocodile Hunter," was filming a documentary he was making with daughter Bindi, eight, when he was stung off Queensland.

Late yesterday, his body was returned to the Sunshine Coast, where his American wife Terri, Bindi and their son, Bob, almost three, were keeping a low profile at their home near Australia Zoo, Mr Irwin's wildlife park. No funeral plans were announced, though Queensland Premier Pete Beattie said he would get a state funeral if the family agreed to it.

Australia's Parliament interrupted its normal schedule so leaders could pay tribute to Mr Irwin.

"He was a genuine, one-off, remarkable Australian individual, and I am distressed at his death," Prime Minister John Howard said.

Australia Zoo was open yesterday -- staff said it was what Mr Irwin would have wanted -- but the mood was somber, and most visitors went to a makeshift shrine of bouquets and handwritten condolence messages that emerged at the gate.

"Mate, you made the world a better place," read one poster left at the gate. Khaki shirts -- a trademark of Mr Irwin -- were laid out for people to sign.