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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 September 2006, 08:28 GMT 09:28 UK
Widespread grief for 'Aussie icon'
By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

Flowers opposite a poster of Steve Irwin
Tributes have been flooding in from fans
Steve Irwin was Australia's ultimate wildlife superhero.

Tributes continue to pour in from around the world for the daredevil naturalist and television personality who died earlier this week in a freak accident on the Great Barrier Reef.

In Australia itself, many of his devoted fans still cannot quite believe he has gone.

"It's just so sad," said Jacqui Taylor, a 41-year-old mother from Coogee beach in Sydney.

"He was a really popular figure and everyone loved his enthusiasm and his larger-than-life character. He was certainly a showman and a larrikin (harmless prankster)."

The Sydney Daily Telegraph said Irwin was a "simple hero for a complicated age". Its letters pages have been full of tributes.

One correspondent said "the death of Princess Diana sent a wave of disbelief across the world and a similar wave is now being felt for Steve Irwin".

'Legend has gone'

So will Australians in years to come remember where they were when they heard that the "Crocodile Hunter" had died?

"Absolutely," said Patricia Jenkins from Coogee.

Patricia Jenkins
Just an ordinary bloke out there trying to do his best
Patricia Jenkins

"One of my teenage son's friends came running into the house saying 'Steve Irwin's dead! Steve Irwin's dead! A legend has gone!' We couldn't believe it."

"I'm very proud of him (Irwin)," she said. "I'm proud of the traditional Australian values he stood for. He was honest and fair and just an ordinary bloke out there trying to do his best."

Certainly his unexpected death has left many Australians feeling numb.

But not everyone feels that way.

"I think the reaction to his death is getting out of hand," explained Tony, a lawyer from Brisbane.

"It's understandable to some extent but I think there'll soon be Steve Irwin jokes. It is all going over the top. Even his father was saying it would be stupid to have a state funeral."

"I found him an incredibly embarrassing person originally until I saw him interviewed on television," said Tony. "It was only then that I realised he was pretty genuine - a bit crazy but a good bloke."

'Crazy guy'

The sudden death of the 'Crocodile Hunter' has touched millions of his fans around the world.

"I thought it was shocking the way he died. I didn't expect for him to go that way," said Megan, a 20-year-old American student from Boston living in Sydney. "Everyone thought he was invincible," she said.

Airsa Naki
He was a very good influence on the kids
Airsa Naki

"He was a star in a funny way. He was that crazy Australian guy and Australia's kind of an exotic, far-away country to people in the US."

"He was a huge guy here so I think he deserves the loving reaction that he's getting here," Megan insisted.

Airsa Naki, a chef from Japan, echoed those sentiments. "I'm very sorry about what happened to him. It was a big accident and I think he was a very great guy," she said.

"He was a very good influence on the kids. He was popular in Japan too - in magazines and on posters."

Steve Irwin was a tireless adventurer and avid conservationist. His friends have said he knew the risks he was taking but was never reckless.

"He was pretty unlucky, wasn't he?" asked English tourist, Alexis Perry from Leeds. "You swim with stingrays all the time and they don't touch you but if you live by the sword, you die by the sword, I guess," he said.

"It's pretty unfortunate but if you play with fire you're going to get burnt," said Nathan Green, a 30-year-old carpenter from Sydney.

"Steve Irwin will always be remembered. He was an Aussie icon," he said fondly.

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