Irwin's emotional father says he lost his best mate

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 him.

“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 colour 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 United States-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 said.

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.” - Reuters

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