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Archive for Wednesday, September 6, 2006

More ‘Crocodile Hunter’ details emerge

September 6, 2006

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— Steve Irwin pulled a poisonous stingray barb from his chest in his dying moments, his longtime manager said Tuesday, after watching videotape of the attack that killed the popular "Crocodile Hunter."

Irwin's body was returned home to Beerwah, a hamlet in southeastern Queensland on the fringe of the Outback where he lived with his wife and two young children. Irwin turned a modest reptile park opened by his parents into Australia Zoo, a wildlife reserve that has become an international tourist attraction.

Terri Irwin, in her first public comment since her husband's death, thanked the staff of his zoo in a brief message late Tuesday, said spokesman Michael Hornby.

"She was very choked up. It was a very frail comment," Hornby told The Associated Press today. "But she wanted to say to the staff how grateful she was for their support and how much it meant to her." Details weren't made public.

Terri Irwin, of Eugene, Ore., daughter Bindi, 8, and son Bob, 2, had been vacationing on the island state of Tasmania when Irwin was killed.

The dramatic details of Irwin's death Monday as he was shooting a program on the Great Barrier Reef were disclosed by John Stainton, his manager and close friend. He said he had viewed the videotape showing the TV star pulling the poisonous stingray barb from his chest.

"It shows that Steve came over the top of the ray and the tail came up, and spiked him here (in the chest), and he pulled it out, and the next minute he's gone," Stainton told reporters in Cairns, the nearest city to tiny Batt Reef off Australia's far northeast coast where the accident happened.

Stainton said the video was "shocking."

The tape was not released to the public. Queensland state police took possession of a copy for a coroner's investigation.

Stainton said the tape should be destroyed when the coroner is finished. "I would never want that tape shown. I mean, it should be destroyed," he said on CNN's "Larry King Live."

People thronged around the entrance of the park on Tuesday, near a billboard featuring Irwin holding a crocodile in his arms and his catch phrase, "Crikey!"

"We're all devastated," said Gail Gipp, the park's hospital wildlife manager. "It is very surreal at the moment. We're determined to carry on what he would have wanted."

"Mate, you made the world a better place," read one poster left at the gate. "Steve, our hero, our legend, our wildlife warrior," read another.

"I thought you were immortal. How I wish that was true," said a third.

The family hasn't spoken about Irwin's funeral plans, although Queensland Premier Peter Beattie offered a state funeral.

Meanwhile, Animal Planet said it had given no thought to taking "The Crocodile Hunter" off the air, said Maureen Smith, the network's executive vice president and general manager.

"Steve's whole mission in life was to educate and inspire the public to take care of animals in the world that we share," she said. "To continue is the best way to get that message out."

Irwin was filming a new series, "Ocean's Deadliest Predators," for Animal Planet. Smith said she wasn't aware whether enough filming had been done for anything to make it on the air.

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