Steve Irwin killed by stingray

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Television reptile hunter Steve Irwin has been killed by a stingray while filming a nature documentary off Queensland, Australia.

According to a report from Australia's The Daily Telegraph, Irwin was struck by the barb of a stingray while swimming off the Low Isles, near Port Douglas, Queensland.

An emergency air ambulance flew to Batt Reef at 11am and paramedics arrived at the scene by boat. The venomous barb of the ray is said to have entered the left side of his chest. Irwin was pronounced dead at the scene.

Wildlife film maker David Ireland told The Daily Telegraph: "Working with (wild animals) the way the way we do things can go very wrong. Rays are very dangerous. They have one or two barbs in the tails which are not only coated in toxic material but are also like a bayonet, like a bayonet on a rifle. If it hits any vital organs it's as deadly as a bayonet."

Dr Ed O'Loughlin was on the Emergency Management Queensland Helicopter which was called to the incident.

He told the paper: "It would be highly unusual for a stingray to cause this type of injury. It became clear fairly soon that he had non-survivable injuries. He had a penetrating injury to the left front of his chest. He had lost his pulse and wasn't breathing."

David Penberthy, editor of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, told the BBC that he had never heard of anyone being killed by a stingray in Australia before: "You know we still at this early stage don't know what type of stingray it was, or, you know I guess given the bloke's track record, whether he was getting up close and personal with it as well.

"Or whether it was just a total freak accident and in the course of making this nature documentary he just ended up being attacked."

Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, told The Australian: "Well I am quite shocked and distressed at Steve Irwin's, sudden, untimely and freakish death. It's a huge loss to Australia. He was a wonderful character. He was a passionate environmentalist. He brought joy and entertainment and excitement to millions of people.

"He was a one-off character and he wasn't just a character for Australians, he was a character for lots of people around the world and this is a huge loss. And to his wife Terri, and his two children, I extend the profound sympathy of myself, my wife and my Government.

"I knew the family very well. I visited Australia Zoo on a number of occasions and I really do feel Australia has lost a wonderful and colourful son.."

Irwin, who was 44, rose to fame on the television series "The Crocodile Hunter". He was heavily involved in conservation and worked for the Steve Irwin Conservation Foundation, and the International Crocodile Rescue.

Stingrays
The most common form of marine stingray found around Queensland are members of the family Dasyatidae.

The species have a barbed venomous sting which is normally used in defence. The fishes are not aggressive.

Most rays bury themselves beneath the bottom substrate and often go unseen by bathers.

Stings are uncommon and usually occur in the foot, calf or upper leg area when the rays are accidentally stepped upon. Wounds are extremely painful but are rarely fatal, unless the barb strikes an artery, major organ or the chest region.

Blue-spotted Stingray Fact File

Common names: Blue-spotted stingray, Bluespotted ribbontail ray

Scientific name: Taeniura lymma (Forrskal, 1775)

Family: Dasyatidae (Stingrays)

Class: Elasmobranchii (Sharks and rays)

Origin: Indo West Pacific, Red Sea, East Africa and as far across as Japan and southern Australia.

Size: Disc size up to 35cm/14", but the tail may measure double this.

Reproduction: This species is an ovoviviparous dasyatid ray, in which eggs remain inside the female until they hatch, so the ray gives birth to fully formed babies.

Notes: This reef-associated ray often occurs in small groups and feeds on crustaceans. Sharks and rays are both members of the Class Elasmobranchii and are commonly known elasmobranchs. However, although related to each other, sharks and rays are in entirely different families and in different Orders. This dasyatid ray is a member of the Mylobatiformes -- sharks, like the Great white are in the Order Carcharhiniformes, for example. There are 14 different Orders of fish in the Euselachii, a grouping which sits below the Elasmobranchii, which hold several hundred species of shark, ray, skate, guitar fish, torpedos and sawfishes.