I was at work last night when someone sent out a group message with the news alert "Steve Irwin killed." You should've heard the gasps that went up. Everyone was distressed. When someone read aloud "Stingray barb?" I just thought it was a joke. You step on stingrays, they make your foot swell up; they don't kill you. There are so many deadly marine animals in Australia - such as the stonefish, which DOES kill you almost at once if you step on it. Stingray barb to the chest is a rare and bizarre way to die. (A "freakish death," as Australia's prime minister put it today.)
The Sydney Morning Herald has a harrowing description of Irwin's last animal encounter, which of course was caught on video:
Without warning, the ray, usually regarded as a placid creature towards humans, stops, turns and lashes out, spearing Irwin in the chest with one of the knife-like barbs at the end of its tail - an action like a paring knife creating "a terrific tearing of flesh", said Bryan Fry, of the University of Melbourne's Australian venom research unit.
I mean, good heavens.
We were all sad at the office, and I was unreasonably down after getting home. He was someone everyone knew and probably imitated at some point, and it was because he did something really cool: hung out with animals everyone was afraid of, and showed you what was nifty about them. Tavern Wench has a sweet tribute up. Cheers, Steve. I'm so sorry for Terri & the kids. The image of Terri sorting through a huge closet of pocketed khaki shirts is almost too sad to contemplate.
(If you followed the SMH link above, here's a definition of "larrikin.")