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Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin Killed

Steve Irwin, the Australian television personality and environmentalist known as the "Crocodile Hunter," was killed Monday by a stingray during a diving expedition, Australian media said. He was 44.

Irwin was filming an underwater documentary on the Great Barrier Reef in northeastern Queensland state when the accident occurred.

The Australian Broadcasting Corp. said Irwin was diving near Low Isles near the resort town of Port Douglas, about 1,260 miles north of Brisbane.

The incident was caught on film and footage has been handed to police. It "shows him swimming in the water, the ray stopped and turned and that was it," said boatowner Peter West, who has seen the footage. "There was no blood in the water, it was not that obvious ... something happened with this animal that made it rear and he was at the wrong position at the wrong time and if it hit him anywhere else we would not be talking about a fatality."

Cameraman and spearfisherman Ben Cropp, was in his own boat and said: "It probably felt threatened because Steve was alongside and there was the cameraman ahead, and it felt there was danger and it baulked. It stopped and went into a defensive mode and swung its tail with the spike. Steve was so close he could not get away, so if you can imagine it - being right beside the ray and it swinging its spine upwards from underneath Steve - and it hit him.

Irwin is famous for his enthusiasm for wildlife and his catchcry "Crikey!" in his television program "Crocodile Hunter," which was first broadcast in Australia in 1992 and has aired around the world on the Discovery channel.

He rode his image into a feature film, and developed the Australia Zoo as a tourist attraction.

Irwin received some negative publicity in recent years when in January 2004, he stunned onlookers at his Australia Zoo reptile park by carrying his 1-year-old son into a crocodile pen during a wildlife show. He tucked the infant under one arm while tossing the 13-foot reptile a piece of meat with the other. Authorities declined to charge Irwin for 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. However, Irwin denied any wrongdoing, and an Australian Environment Department investigation recommended no action be taken against him.

Tributes for Irvin and the family are pouring in from around the world.

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