The widow of “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin thanked staff at his wildlife park today, in her first comments on his death, as she considered whether to accept the offer of a state funeral or hold a more private ceremony.
Terri Irwin spoke over the internal public address system at Australia Zoo, the crocodile farm and animal preserve that was the global television personality’s home base in south-eastern Queensland state, thanking staff for their support, spokesman Michael Hornby said.
“It was very brief. She was very choked up. It was a very frail comment,” Hornby said. “But she wanted to say to the staff how grateful she was for their support and how much it meant to her.”
Contents of the address were not made public, and park chiefs said the family was keeping a low profile while absorbing the shock of Irwin’s death on Monday, minutes after the barb from a stingray’s tail pierced his chest while he snorkelled on the Great Barrier Reef.
Terri Irwin was considering a government offer for a state funeral to be held for Irwin, who was beloved by millions as the larger-than-life host of Discovery Channel’s “The Crocodile Hunter” television show.
She was also considering whether to have a smaller, private ceremony at an Outback location, and give permission for a large public event at a stadium in the state capital, Brisbane, Hornby said.
Prime minister John Howard has said a large public memorial would be fitting, but only if the family agreed.
Irwin’s body was returned home yesterday from the north-eastern city of Cairns. Terri Irwin and their two children, Bindi, eight, and Bob, two, arrived in Beerwah earlier from a holiday.
The family needed time to gather their thoughts before deciding on funeral arrangements, said long-time friend and manager John Stainton.
“Take it a day at a time, that’s all we can do,” Stainton said.
Hundreds of bouquets and handwritten notes have been placed at an ad hoc shrine to the popular 44-year-old naturalist outside the park and other tributes flowed in from Canberra to Hollywood and in streams of good wishes to media and Irwin-related Internet web sites.
Mourners continued their pilgrimage throughout yesterday.
Stainton said Irwin’s last moments were caught on video and showed him pulling the stingray’s poisonous barb from his chest just before he died. Discovery said it would not release the footage.
Police have said there are no suspicious circumstances in Irwin’s death, and no decision has been made about whether a coroner will hold a formal inquest or accept the police findings. No formal cause of death has been announced.
Inquests are held into suspicious deaths, if relatives ask, or if the coroner decides the public interest would be served by one. Such an inquest following the 1998 disappearance of US tourists Thomas and Eileen Lonergan, who were left behind during a dive tour off Cairns, resulted in new safety regulations for the industry.