Irwin memorial service 'could draw 50,000'

Family members discussed plans for “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin’s private funeral today and where to hold a public memorial service for the television star that could draw up to 50,000 people.

Family members discussed plans for “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin’s private funeral today and where to hold a public memorial service for the television star that could draw up to 50,000 people.

Irwin, 44, killed in a fatal stingray attack on Monday, will be buried at an as-yet undecided location in a ceremony attended by his family and closest friends. John Stainton, Irwin’s manager, who was on the star’s boat on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef when he died, said today he expected a decision would be made soon.

There have been several suggestions – at the family-owned 60-acre Australia Zoo on the fringe of the Outback, where mourners in their thousands have been leaving flowers, pictures and candles steadily since the day he died – or the original Irwin family property at Blackbutt in the nearby Brisbane Valley.

Stainton said the public memorial service, which will probably feature celebrities and Australia’s leading political figures, was more difficult to organise because of the unknown number of Irwin’s fans expected to attend.

“You’ve seen what it’s been like here,” Stainton said at Australia Zoo as he pointed to the thousands of floral arrangements and other tributes. “It could really be anywhere between 5,000 and 50,000.”

One venue mentioned is a 52,000-seat sports stadium in Brisbane, the nearby capital of Queensland state, a facility seemingly large enough to handle the crowds. It is expected to be held within two weeks.

Irwin could have had a formal state funeral offered by prime minister John Howard. Instead, Irwin’s father, Bob, said his son would have preferred a smaller, private funeral.

Irwin’s body is at an undertakers at Caloundra, about 12 miles from the zoo, a reptile theme park that Bob Irwin started in 1970.

Terri Irwin, Steve Irwin’s American-born wife, and two children, Bindi, eight, and Bob, two, have remained secluded at their home near the zoo.

Her mother, Julia Raines of Eugene, Oregon, told the television newsmagazine show Inside Edition in the US that Terri said she might have trouble coming to grips with being a single parent.

“Terri says it’s going to be hard being the only parent because you depend on the other person more than you realise, and she’s having a hard time with that,” said Raines.

“She told me: ‘I’m very concerned about raising the children by myself’, but I know she’ll do well.”

Raines said Terri Irwin told her: “Robert repeatedly asks where’s Daddy, because he’s only two, but Bindi has been a big help to Terri, she’s been her rock.”

Filmmaker Philippe Cousteau, grandson of oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, said today he met Irwin several weeks ago when the two began working on the Ocean’s Deadliest documentary for Animal Planet. Irwin was taking part in filming for the documentary when he was killed.

“He had never-ending energy,” said Cousteau. “He put us all to shame. He was an inspiration I will never, ever forget.”

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