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Stingray kills 'Crocodile Hunter'

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SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- Steve Irwin, the TV presenter known as the "Crocodile Hunter," has died after being stung by a stingray in a marine accident off Australia's north coast.

Media reports say Irwin was diving in waters off Port Douglas, north of Cairns, when the incident happened on Monday morning.

Irwin, 44 was killed by a stingray barb that went through his chest, according to Cairns police sources. Irwin was filming an underwater documentary at the time.

Ambulance officers confirmed they attended a reef fatality Monday morning off Port Douglas, according to Australian media. (Watch scenes of Irwin, known for his his enthusiasm, support for conservation -- 2:49)

Queensland Police Services also confirmed Irwin's death and said his family had been notified. Irwin was director of the Australian Zoo in Queensland.

He is survived by his American-born wife Terri and their two children, Bindi Sue, born 1998, and Robert (Bob), born December 2003.

Irwin became a popular figure on Australian and international television through Irwin's close handling of wildlife, most notably the capture and relocation of crocodiles.

Irwin's enthusiastic approach to nature conservation and the environment won him a global following. He was known for his exuberance and use of the catch phrase "Crikey!"

But his image suffered a setback in January 2004 when he held his then 1-month-old baby Bob while feeding a crocodile at his Australian zoo. (Full story)

In a statement released to Australian media, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer expressed his sorrow and said that he was fond of Irwin and was very appreciative of all the work he had done in promoting Australia overseas.

In 2003, Irwin spoke to the Australian Broadcasting Corp.'s Australian Story television program about how he was perceived in his home country.

"When I see what's happened all over the world, they're looking at me as this very popular, wildlife warrior Australian bloke," he said, the ABC reported.

"And yet back here in my own country, some people find me a little bit embarrassing. "You know, there's this... they kind of cringe, you know, 'cause I'm coming out with 'Crikey' and 'Look at this beauty.'"



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