Stephen Robert “Steve” Irwin (February 22, 1962 – September 4, 2006) was an Australian naturalist, wildlife expert and television personality. He was best known for the television program The Crocodile Hunter, an unconventional wildlife documentary series broadcasted worldwide and hosted with his wife Terri.
Born to Lyn and Bob Irwin in Essendon, a suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, Irwin moved with his parents as a child to Queensland in 1970. Bob Irwin was a reptile enthusiast and when the family moved, Bob and Lyn Irwin started the small Queensland Reptile and Fauna Park, where Steve grew up around crocodiles and other reptiles.
Irwin became involved with the park in a number of ways, including taking part in daily animal feedings, as well as care and maintenance activities. On his sixth birthday he was given a scrub python. He began handling crocodiles at the age of nine, after his father had educated him on reptiles from an early age. He became a crocodile trapper, removing crocodiles from near populated areas, performing the service for free with the quid pro quo that he kept them for the park. Irwin followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a volunteer for the Queensland Government’s East Coast Crocodile Management program.
Shortly after 11:00am local time on 4 September 2006, Irwin was fatally pierced in the chest by a short-tail stingray barb while diving in Queensland’s Batt Reef, which is part of the Great Barrier Reef. The events were caught on camera and the footage is now in the possession of Queensland Police. Irwin was in the area filming his own documentary, to be called The Ocean’s Deadliest, but weather had stalled filming. Irwin decided to take the opportunity to film some shallow water shots for a segment in the television program his daughter Bindi was hosting, when, according to his friend and colleague John Stainton, he swam too close to one of the animals. “He came on top of the stingray and the stingray’s barb went up and into his chest and put a hole into his heart,” said Stainton, who was on board Irwin’s boat at the time.
After reviewing the footage of the incident and speaking to the cameraman who recorded it, marine documentary filmmaker and fisherman Ben Cropp speculated that the stingray “felt threatened because Steve was alongside and there was the cameraman ahead…” In such a case, the stingray responds by automatically flexing the serrated barb on its tail, which is up to 25 centimeters (roughly 10 inches) in length.
“He came over the top of a stingray that was buried in the sand, and the barb came up and hit him in the chest,” Stainton said. Wildlife documentary maker Ben Cropp, citing a colleague who saw footage of the attack, told Time.com that Irwin had accidentally boxed the animal in. “It stopped and twisted and threw up its tail with the spike, and it caught him in the chest,” said Ben Cropp. “It’s a defensive thing. It’s like being stabbed with a dirty dagger.” The Bull Ray that stung Irwin was “a one-in-a-million thing,” Cropp told Time magazine. “I have swum with many rays, and I have only had one do that to me.”In this case, the motion struck Irwin’s chest and pierced his heart. This was only the third known fatality in Australian history from a stingray attack, and only 17 worldwide fatalities have taken place since 1996.
Crewmembers aboard his boat called emergency services in the nearest city of Cairns and administered CPR as they rushed the boat to nearby Low Isle to meet a rescue helicopter. Medical staff pronounced Irwin dead when they arrived a short time later.
The Queensland Police Service notified his family and released a statement for the media concerning his death. News of his death prompted a public outpouring expressing shock and loss. Several Australian news websites went down because of high web traffic and talk-back radio experienced a high volume of callers expressing their grief, commemorating his passion and exuberance. Prime Minister John Howard, among many other politicians, expressed his “shock and distress” at the death, saying that “Australia has lost a wonderful and colourful son.” Irwin’s body was flown to a morgue in Cairns, where stunned family and friends were gathering on Monday night. His wife Terri was informed of her husband’s death while on a walking tour in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park in Tasmania, and returned via private plane from Devonport to the Sunshine Coast with their two children. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Irwin)