Private funeral for Crocodile Hunter Irwin

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The Independent Online

Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin's family has decided on a private funeral for the popular Australian television star to be held within a week.

The public will have its chance to pay respects at a memorial service within two weeks, with thousands expected to attend.

The 44-year-old Irwin died on Monday after being killed by a stingray on the Great Barrier Reef.

In a short statement today, Bob Irwin said family and "closest friends" would attend the private service, confirming that the "generous government offer" of a state funeral had been turned down.

No details were given on the possible location for a public memorial, although the Irwin family's 60-acre Australia Zoo and a 52,000-seat sports stadium in the nearby state capital of Brisbane have been mentioned.

The elder Irwin said yesterday that his son would not have wanted a formal state funeral because "he's an ordinary guy, and he wants to be remembered as an ordinary bloke."

Australian Prime Minister John Howard had said a state funeral would be appropriate for Irwin because he was so well loved and because of his services to the country as an unofficial tourism ambassador.

Since Irwin's death, several hundred thousand pounds in online donations from the United States alone have poured into one of Irwin's wildlife charities.

But the head of one of Irwin's conservation groups said today he is worried what will happen to the million-pound charitable organisation after the peak in interest surrounding Irwin's death recedes.

The head of Wildlife Warriors estimated that around £250,000 in pledges had come into the group from around the world since Irwin's death.

"But it's not just about the money," Wildlife Warriors head Michael Hornby said.

"They represent the number of people who are now getting involved. That was a big thing for Steve. He wanted to get the ordinary person, everyday people, involved ... it is coming to fruition."

Even with the donations pouring in, Hornby admitted he wasn't sure how the group, which went public as a charity in April after operating as part of Australia Zoo since 2002, would cope following Irwin's death.

"I don't know," said Hornby. "I have to say Wildlife Warriors has never had this much exposure (as) ... through this incident. I think it probably is a groundswell now. The challenge for us is to keep the momentum going."

That will be a delicate balance, said Hornby.

"It's a fine line between driving ... (Irwin's) wishes and being seen to be exploiting such a terrible, terrible situation," he said.

"That's tough ... but we keep reminding ourselves every day that Steve wanted people to get involved, and if this is what it took, he would be supportive of it."

Irwin's body is at a funeral home at Caloundra, about 12 miles from Australia Zoo, the reptile theme park that Bob Irwin started in 1970 and which has been a focal point of grieving for thousands of well-wishers.

While Terri Irwin, Steve Irwin's American-born wife, and two children, Bindi, eight, and Bob, two, remained secluded at their home near the zoo, more than a thousand fans again showed up today to add to the ever-growing assortment of flowers, flags, candles, cartoons drawn by children and dozens of khaki shirts, all signed by mourners in lieu of a condolence book.

After security officials roped off the area, Bob Irwin and several members of his family took a brief, private tour of the memorial on today, reading notes from well-wishers.

Terri Irwin has not commented since her husband's death.

Her mother, Julia Raines of Eugene, Oregon, told the television newsmagazine show Inside Edition in the US that Terri said she might have trouble coming to grips with being a single parent.

"Terri says it's going to be hard being the only parent because you depend on the other person more than you realize, and she's having a hard time with that," said Raines. "She told me, 'I'm very concerned about raising the children by myself,' but I know she'll do well."

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