Irwin’s death clogs Websites, stuns world fans


IN death as in life, iconic TV naturalist Steve Irwin captivated millions worldwide and clogged the Internet as fans from Guam to Glasgow reacted with disbelief to news “The Crocodile Hunter” was dead.


Some Website

s groaned to a halt within hours of the first reports on Monday that Irwin had been killed by a stingray’s barb through his chest in a freak diving accident off Australia’s northeast coast.


Web measurement company Hitwise said Irwin’s death was the biggest news event read by Australians on the Internet since two Australian miners were trapped by a mine collapse in southern Tasmania state in late April.


“We noticed that the Website www.crocodilehunter.com increased in popularity quite substantially. It became the number one entertainment personality Website in Australia yesterday and in the United States it also became the third most popular,” Hitwise Asia-Pacific marketing director James Borg told Reuters.


Australian news Web sites struggled to keep up with demand.


The Australian Broadcasting Corp’s site (www.abc.com.au) had to temporarily shut down, posting a notice on Monday that it was experiencing higher than normal traffic.


It resumed soon after in a low-bandwidth format to cope with hundreds of thousands of hits.


Newspaper Web sites also wobbled but kept up with demand.


A spokesman for The Sydney Morning Herald’s site, www.smh.com.au, said it had experienced a “huge” 40% spike in page impressions compared with the previous week’s average weekday number of about 500 000.


There was also a 70% jump in visitors to its pages, the spokesman said.


That pattern was mirrored around the world, with Irwin’s death leading major news Web sites such as CNN and US and British newspaper Web sites, as well as swamping their most viewed and most emailed categories.


Web logs and Internet feedback pages were also awash with postings from shocked readers from around the world, many of them from Americans charmed by Irwin’s quirky style and his typically Australian catchphrase of “crikey”.


Meanwhile, officials said Irwin was videotaped pulling a poisonous stingray barb from his chest in his last moments of life.


Police said there was nothing suspicious about Irwin’s death and no evidence he provoked the animal. Irwin, (44) was stabbed through the heart on Monday while snorkeling with a stingray during filming of a new TV programme on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.


John Stainton, Irwin’s manager who was among the crew on the reef, said the fatal blow was caught on videotape, and described viewing the footage as having the “terrible” experience of watching a friend die.


Queensland state police were holding the tape as evidence for a coroner’s inquiry — a standard procedure in high-profile deaths or those caused by other than natural causes.


Experts have said the stingray may have felt trapped between the cameraman and the TV star. Irwin, the popular host of “Crocodile Hunter,” rose to fame by getting dangerously close to crocodiles, snakes and other beasts.


Parliament took a break from the business of running the country to pay tribute to Irwin, whose body was being flown home on Tuesday from Cairns.


Irwin was propelled to global fame after his TV shows, in which he regularly wrestled with crocodiles and went face-to-face with poisonous snakes and other wild animals, were shown around world on the Discovery Channel.


The network announced plans for a marathon screening of Irwin’s work and a wildlife fund in his name. —  Reuter/AP.

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