Stingray kills Steve Irwin

Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin has died in a freak marine accident while shooting a documentary on the Great Barrier Reef.



The 44-year-old is believed to have been killed by a stingray barb that went through his chest while he was diving.

He was filming an underwater documentary off Port Douglas when the accident occurred.

Stingrays have between one and six sharp and highly toxic barbs on their tails that they use to defend themselves when they feel threatened, wildlife websites showed.

The Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) said a call was received about 11am (AEST) today and an emergency services helicopter was flown to a boat on Batt Reef, off Port Douglas, with a doctor and emergency services paramedic on board.

Irwin had a puncture wound to the left side of his chest and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police said Irwin's family had been informed of his death.

Irwin was married to US-born Terri Irwin and the couple have two children: a daughter, Bindi Sue Irwin, 8, and a son, Robert (Bob) Clarence Irwin, three.

It's believed his wife was trekking on Cradle Mountain in Tasmania when the accident occurred.

Irwin's body was being flown to a morgue in Cairns.

Irwin 'died instantly'

Later, the producer of the documentary Irwin was making said the 44-year-old probably died instantly when his chest was pierced by a stingray's barb.

John Stainton, who has worked as a director and producer on a number of Irwin's film and television projects since 1996, said it was unlikely Irwin had felt any pain.

He said he had gone "over the top of a stingray and a stingray's barb went up and went into his chest and put a hole into his heart".

"We got him back within a couple of minutes to Croc One, which is his research vessel," Mr Stainton told reporters. "We tried to quickly trip back to Low Isle where we were going to meet the emergency rescue people to do immediate and constant CPR, try and resuscitate him back into life.

"When we got there it was probably 10 to 12, and by 12 o'clock when the emergency crew arrived they pronounced him dead. It's likely that he possibly died instantly when the barb hit him, and I don't think that he ... felt any pain."

Mr Stainton said Irwin had been filming with his daughter Bindi.

"We were in the Cairns, Port Douglas area shooting a documentary for Animal Planet called Ocean's Deadliest, which was basically looking at things that can kill you in the sea," he said.

"This morning Steve decided to shoot a couple of segments for a new TV show that he's doing with his daughter Bindi, and with the cameramen went out onto the reef ... to film a segment on stingrays."

Bull ray 'lashed out'

Marine documentary maker Ben Cropp said Irwin was killed when a bull ray lashed out at him in shallow water.

Mr Cropp contacted a member of Irwin's production crew late today.

He said Irwin was swimming as his cameraman was filming bull rays at Batt Reef, when the tragedy occurred.

"In this case he was swimming alongside a bull ray, a big black ray and the cameraman would have been in front, filming him. Steve got probably maybe a bit too close to the ray, and with the cameraman in front, the ray must have felt sort of cornered. It baulked but didn't spook and go racing away, which would have been fine.

"It went into a defensive mode, stopped, turned around and lashed out with its tail which has a considerable spike on it. Unfortunately Steve was directly in its path and he took a fatal wound.

"It was a freak accident in that it caught him in the chest, near the heart."

Mr Cropp said the incident occurred in shallow water, less than two metres deep, and members of the film crew were "very upset".

Mr Cropp, who has made a number of documentaries over the years, also said he had experienced similar responses from stingrays that he was filming.

'Highly unusual' death

The doctor who was called in to treat Irwin says his death after being struck by a stingray barb is highly unusual.

Ed O’Loughlin said it was the first time he come across a death from a stingray.

Irwin was being given CPR as the emergency helicopter arrived less than an hour after the incident but Dr O’Loughlin says nothing could be done to save him as he had a penetrating injury to the left front of his chest, had lost his pulse and wasn’t breathing.

He says it appears Irwin suffered a form of cardiac arrest but said a post mortem will be conducted in Cairns.

Famous for enthusiasm

Melbourne-born Irwin - known worldwide as the Crocodile Hunter - is famous for his enthusiasm for wildlife and his catchcry "Crikey!".

The father of two's Crocodile Hunter program was first broadcast in 1992 and has been shown around the world on cable network Discovery.

Thanks to his TV programs, Irwin is perhaps the best-known Australian in the United States.

He has also starred in movies and developed the Australia Zoo wildlife park, north of Brisbane, which was started by his parents Bob and Lyn Irwin.

Controversial

Irwin was married to US-born Terri Irwin and the couple have two children: a daughter, Bindi Sue Irwin, 8, and a son, Robert (Bob) Clarence Irwin, three.

It's believed his wife was trekking on Cradle Mountain in Tasmania when the accident occurred.

Their son Bob was involved in a controversial incident in January, 2004, when his father dangled him near a crocodile at Australia Zoo.

Irwin carried his infant son in one arm while feeding a dead chicken carcass to a crocodile with the other hand.

Child welfare and animal rights groups criticised his actions as irresponsible and tantamount to child abuse.

Irwin said any danger to his son was only a perceived danger and that he was in complete control of the situation.

In June 2004, Irwin came under fire again when it was alleged he came too close to and disturbed some whales, seals and penguins while filming a documentary in Antarctica.

Interacting with Antarctic wildlife in a disapproved manner may be a breach of Australian federal and international laws. But the issue ended without charges being filed.

Irwin had close links with Prime Minister John Howard and was a guest at The Lodge during a function for US President George W Bush in 2003.

Irwin also championed many environmental projects.

These included the Steve Irwin Conservation Foundation, and International Crocodile Rescue.
Source AAP

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