September 6, 2006

Irwin’s father says he lost his best mate

By Paul Tait

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Steve Irwin's father said on Wednesday
he lost his best mate when the TV naturalist known as the
"Crocodile Hunter" died in a freak diving accident, adding that
his son would hate the fuss of a state funeral.

In the first public comments by Irwin's family since his
death on Monday while diving off Australia's northeast coast,
Bob Irwin thanked his son's many fans from Australia and around
the world for their messages of condolence.

"Steve and I weren't like father and son, we never were,"
Bob Irwin told reporters outside Australia Zoo, the animal park
in tropical Queensland state known to his son's millions of
viewers around the world.

"We were good mates. I'll remember Steve as my best mate
ever," he said.

Irwin, 44, died after the serrated barb of a stingray's
tail pierced his heart.

He had flirted with death many times on his "Crocodile
Hunter" documentaries, seen by 200 million people, wrestling
with some of the world's most dangerous creatures.

"Both of us over the years have had some very close
shaves," Bob Irwin said outside the zoo his son took over from

"We made jokes of it. That's not to say that we were
careless but we treated it like it was just part of the job,"
he said.

News of Irwin's death clogged Internet news sites and drew
tributes from around the world. Prime Minister John Howard
interrupted parliament on Tuesday to pay tribute to him, saying
he was distressed by the loss of a remarkable Australian.

Irwin's death continued to dominate local newspapers, with
the tabloid Daily Telegraph devoting seven pages to the story
as well as a full-page color poster on Wednesday.

Authorities have offered Irwin's grieving family a state
funeral but Bob Irwin, dressed in khaki shirt and shorts like
those his son made famous, said they were unlikely to accept.

"The state funeral would be refused ... because he's an
ordinary guy, he's just an ordinary bloke," Bob Irwin said.

Irwin is survived by his U.S.-born wife, Terri, and two
young children. Terri Irwin has thanked staff at Australia Zoo
for their support but has not spoken publicly since his death.

"Terri's holding up very well, considering," Bob Irwin

Bob Irwin, who taught Irwin how to handle dangerous
animals, said he was burying a cow which had died while calving
on his farm when he heard of his son's death.

He said that his son had died doing something he loved.

"That's a lot better than getting hit by a bus. But there
is no comfort for me at this stage in anything at all."