the best thing i can say...my 9 year old daughter loved him...and shed tears for him...
Steve Irwin'Crocodile Hunter' Steve Irwin Dies at 44Sep 4, 12:41 AM EST
"He was a wonderful character. He was a passionate environmentalist. He brought joy and entertainment and excitement to millions of people."
Irwin, who made a trademark of hovering dangerously close to untethered crocodiles and leaping on their backs, spoke in rapid-fire bursts with a thick Australian accent and was almost never seen without his uniform of khaki shorts and shirt and heavy boots.
Wild animal expert Jack Hanna, who frequently appears on TV with his subjects, offered praise for Irwin.
"Steve was one of these guys, we thought of him as invincible," Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo and Aquarium, told ABC's "Good Morning America" Monday.
"The guy was incredible. His knowledge was incredible," Hanna said. "Some people that are doing this stuff are actors and that type of thing, but Steve was truly a zoologist, so to speak, a person who knew what he was doing. Yes, he did things a lot of people wouldn't do. I think he knew what he was doing."
Irwin's ebullience was infectious and Australian officials sought him out for photo opportunities and to promote Australia internationally.
His public image was dented, however, in 2004 when he caused an uproar by holding his infant son in one arm while feeding large crocodiles inside a zoo pen. Irwin claimed at the time there was no danger to the child, and authorities declined to charge Irwin with violating safety regulations.
Later that year, he was accused of getting too close to penguins, a seal and humpback whales in Antarctica while making a documentary. Irwin denied any wrongdoing, and an Australian Environment Department investigation recommended no action be taken against him.
Stingrays have a serrated, toxin-loaded barb, or spine, on the top of their tail. The barb, which can be up to 10 inches long, flexes if a ray is frightened. Stings usually occur to people when they step on or swim too close to a ray and can be excruciatingly painful but are rarely fatal, said University of Queensland marine neuroscientist Shaun Collin.
Collin said he suspected Irwin died because the barb pierced under his ribcage and directly into his heart.
"It was extraordinarily bad luck. It's not easy to get spined by a stingray and to be killed by one is very rare," Collin said.
News of Irwin's death spread quickly, and tributes flowed from all quarters of society.
At Australia Zoo at Beerwah, south Queensland, floral tributes were dropped at the entrance, where a huge fake crocodile gapes. Drivers honked their horns as they passed.
"Steve, from all God's creatures, thank you. Rest in peace," was written on a card with a bouquet of native flowers.
"We're all very shocked. I don't know what the zoo will do without him. He's done so much for us, the environment and it's a big loss," said Paula Kelly, a local resident and volunteer at the zoo, after dropping off a wreath at the gate.
Stainton said Irwin's American-born wife Terri, from Eugene, Ore., had been informed of his death, and had told their daughter Bindi Sue, 8, and son Bob, who will turn 3 in December.
The couple met when she went on vacation in Australia in 1991 and visited Irwin's Australia Zoo; they were married six months later. Sometimes referred to as the "Crocodile Huntress," she costarred on her husband's television show and in his 2002 movie.