This is sad news indeed as he was only 44 and with a family but it sounds like Steve died doing what he loved.
The news of his death are spreading around the Internet with amazing speed though. His Wikipedia entry has already been updated, and Digg is chockers with items about it.
No more "Crikey!" jokes then. I had no idea stingrays were that bad, but Wikipedia says this about them:
Their stinger is a razor-sharp, barbed or serrated cartilaginous spine which grows from the ray's whip-like tail (like a fingernail). It is coated with a toxic venom. This gives them their common name of stingrays, but that name can also be used to refer to any poisonous ray.
Dasyatids do not attack aggressively, or even actively defend themselves. When threatened their primary reaction is to swim away. However, when they are attacked by predators or stepped on, the barbed stinger in their tail is mechanically whipped up, usually into the offending foot; it is also possible, although less likely, to be stung "accidentally" by brushing against the stinger. Contact with the stinger causes local trauma (from the cut itself), pain and swelling from the venom, and possible infection from parts of the stinger left in the wound, as well as from seawater entering the wound. It is possible for ray stings to be fatal if they sever major arteries, are in the chest or pelvic region, or are improperly treated.
Steve Irwin was quite eccentric (in a good way) and here is a collection of quotes from him.
Looks like the news of Steve Irwin's death are blowing the socks off the Internet in Australia and New Zealand. TVNZ's site hardly loads and check out this graph from Akamai:
Talk about a spike!
(The graph gets updated regularly - in case the figure scrolls off, the peak was 209,398 visitors per minute roundabout 1pm on Sept 4, Australian time.)
Update Reuters reports that Irwin pulled the barb out of his chest before losing consciousness and that the whole episode of his death was caught on video.
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