Friends, Family Pay Tribute to Steve Irwin - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

9/20/06

Friends, Family Pay Tribute to Steve Irwin

  Sept. 20, 2006 - Friends, family members and celebrities paid their final respects to beloved TV personality and wildlife conservationist Steve "Crocodile Hunter" Irwin in speeches and televised tributes at a public memorial service today.

"Steve has become my brother, mentor and best mate," said Wes Mannion, the director of the Australia Zoo, on Wednesday. "To the world, he was a hero. To me, he saved my life. I'll miss you, mate."

Irwin died on Sept. 4, when a stingray barb pierced his heart during TV filming in the Great Barrier Reef.

His family held a private service for him on Sept. 9 at Australia Zoo.

Irwin's admirers paid their respects to him, even if they could not be at the public memorial service.

"Thank you deeply for every moment and your company," actor Russell Crowe said in a recorded message. "My hand, my heart, Stephen, my friend."

A Young Daughter's Tribute

There was hardly a dry eye at the ceremony when Irwin's 8-year-old daughter, Bindi, eulogized her father.

"I don't want Daddy's passion to ever end," she said. "I want to help endangered wildlife just like he did. I had the best Daddy in whole world."

"I know that Daddy had an important job," she said. "He was working to change the world so that everybody would love wildlife like he did."

Thousands who gathered at the Australia Zoo were also treated to some humorous outtakes of Irwin's on-air antics.

Irwin's manager and friend, John Stainton, who witnessed his death, said the "Crocodile Hunter" would have been pleased with the tribute.

"Everyone stood up and applauded Bindi," Stainton said. "He would've been so proud for that kid girl that it's not funny."

At the end of the ceremony, Irwin's utility vehicle, packed with camping gear and his favorite surfboard, was driven from the stadium through an honor guard of Australia Zoo employees to an encore singing of "True Blue."

At the end of the ceremony, a group of employees spelled out Irwin's catchword "Crikey" in yellow flowers on the ground.

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