Family and fans say goodbye to their 'Crocodile Hunter'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The choir wore khaki and a koala slept in a gum tree next to the stage where Steve Irwin's family held a memorial service for Australia's "Crocodile Hunter".

The service, held yesterday at Irwin's Australia Zoo wildlife park on the Queensland Sunshine Coast, was attended by politicians, actors and sporting celebrities, as well as thousands of others.

The most heart-rending moment came when his daughter Bindi, 8, took to the stage to read a tribute she had written herself.

Her mother, Terri, and two-year-old brother Bob watched as Bindi said: "My daddy was my hero, he was always there for me when I needed him ... but most of all he was fun. He took me and my brother and mum with him all the time. We filmed together, caught crocodiles together and loved being in the bush together. I have the best daddy in the whole world. I miss him every day."

"I know Daddy had an important job. He was working to change the world so everyone would love wildlife like he did. I don't want Daddy's passion to ever end. I want to help endangered wildlife just like he did. When I see a crocodile, I will always think of him and I know Daddy made this zoo so everyone could come and learn to love all the animals.

"Daddy made this place his whole life and now it's our turn to help Daddy."

Australia's Prime Minister, John Howard, was also in attendance at the ceremony at the "Crocoseum".

Mr Howard said: "Steve Irwin touched the hearts of Australians and of millions around the world in a very special way," he said. "He did that because he had that quality of being genuine, of being authentic."

Hollywood stars including Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner and Cameron Diaz paid respects in videotaped tributes. In a recorded message, Crowe, said: "It was way too soon for all of us. We have lost a friend, a champion. It will take some time to adjust to that."

Irwin's family held a private memorial service last week at the zoo. Yesterday's ceremony, broadcast live in Australia, as well as the US and across Asia, was an occasion for his fans to grieve.

Irwin's favourite musician, the country singer John Williamson, sang one of Irwin's favourite songs, "True Blue", from the back of Irwin's pick-up truck - known as a Ute in Australia.

As the ceremony drew to a close, the Ute was loaded up with Irwin's camping gear, crocodile nets and favourite surfboard, and was driven out of the Crocoseum. His staff then laid bunches of daisies on the ground, spelling out his catchword "Crikey!"