THE Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, is dead.
He was killed in a freak accident in Cairns, police sources said. It is understood he was killed by a sting-ray barb that went through his chest.
He was swimming off the Low Isles at Port Douglas filming an underwater documentary and that' is when it occured.
Mr Irwin's body was being flown to Cairns.
Ambulance officers confirmed they attended a reef fatality this morning at Batt Reef off Port Douglas.
It is believed Mr Irwin's American-born wife Terri is trekking on Cradle Mountain in Tasmania and has yet to be told of her husband's death.
Mr Irwin - known worldwide as the Crocodile Hunter - is famous for his enthusiasm for wildlife and his catchcry "Crikey!".
The father of two's Crocodile Hunter program was first broadcast in 1992 and has been shown around the world on cable network Discovery.
He has also starred in movies and has developed the Australia Zoo wildlife park, north of Brisbane, which was started by his parents Bob and Lyn Irwin.
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who used a photograph of his family at Australia Zoo for his official Christmas card last year, hailed Mr Irwin for his work in promoting Australia.
Mr Irwin was heavily involved in last year's "G'Day LA" campaign.
"The minister knew him, was fond of him and was very, very appreciative of all the work he'd done to promote Australia overseas," a spokesman said.
The Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) said a call was received about 11am (AEST) and an emergency services helicopter was flown to the boat on Batt Reef off the coast near Cairns with a doctor and emergency services paramedic on board.
Mr Irwin had a puncture wound to the left side of his chest and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
The Irwins have two children – a daughter, Bindi Sue Irwin, eight, and a three-year-old son, Robert (Bob) Clarence Irwin.
Bob was involved in a controversial incident with his father in January, 2004, when he dangled him near a crocodile at Australia Zoo.
Mr Irwin carried his infant son in one arm while feeding a dead chicken carcass to a crocodile with the other hand.
Child welfare and animal rights groups criticised his actions as irresponsible and tantamount to child abuse.
Mr Irwin stated any danger to his son was only a perceived danger and that he was in complete control of the situation.
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