Croc hunter Steve Irwin killed by stingray

Steve Irwin, the ebullient Australian TV personality and conservationist known as the Crocodile Hunter, was killed today by a stingray barb to the heart during a diving expedition.

Irwin, 44, was filming an underwater sequence for a television series on remote Batt Reef off the far north-east coast of Australia when he encountered the ray and was stung at about 11am (0200BST), accoring to a statement from Australia Zoo, Irwin's park.

Crew members aboard Irwin's boat, Croc One, called emergency services in the nearest city, Cairns, and administered attempted resuscitation as they rushed the boat to nearby Low Isle to meet a rescue helicopter.

Medical staff pronounced Irwin dead at about noon, the statement said.

"The world has lost a great wildlife icon, a passionate conservationist and one of the proudest dads on the planet," said John Stainton, Irwin's friend and producer who was on board Croc One.

"He died doing what he loves best and left this world in a happy and peaceful state of mind," he said. "Crocs Rule!"

Queensland state police said Irwin's family - which includes US-born wife Terri - had been notified of his death.

Irwin is famous for his enthusiasm for wildlife and his catchphrase "Crikey!" in his television programme, Crocodile Hunter, which was first broadcast in Australia in 1992 before it was picked up by the Discovery channel, catapulting him to international celebrity.

Irwin, who made a trademark of hovering dangerously close to untethered crocodiles, often leaping on their backs, talked mile-a-minute in a thick Australian drawl and was almost never seen without his uniform of khaki shorts and shirt and heavy boots.

His ebullience was infectious and Australian officials sought him out for photo opportunities and to promote Australia internationally. Irwin was among guests hand-picked by Prime Minister John Howard to attend a barbecue to honour US President George Bush when he visited Canberra, the national capital, in 2003.

The public image was dented in 2004 when Irwin triggered an uproar by holding his baby in one arm while feeding large crocodiles inside a zoo pen. Irwin claimed at the time there was no danger to his son, and authorities declined to charge Irwin with violating safety regulations.

Later that year, he was accused of getting too close to penguins, a seal and humpback whales in Antarctica while making a documentary. Irwin denied any wrongdoing, and an Australian Environment Department investigation recommended no action be taken against him.

He is survived by his wife, from Oregon, who was Terri Raines before they married in 1992, their daughter Bindi Sue, eight, and son Bob, who will turn three in December.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who used a photograph of his family at Australia Zoo for his official Christmas card last year, hailed Irwin for his work in promoting Australia through projects such as the "G'Day LA" tourism and trade promotion in Los Angeles in January.

"The minister knew him, was fond of him and was very, very appreciative of all the work he'd done to promote Australia overseas," Downer's spokesman Tony Parkinson said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones