Australians are in shock today over word of the death of Steve Irwin.
The playful, energetic, animal wrangler known as The Crocodile Hunter had become a national icon. He was killed by a stingray while filming an underwater documentary on Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
Prime Minister John Howard says he's distressed by Irwin's "sudden, untimely and freakish" death. He says Irwin was "a passionate environmentalist" who brought "joy and entertainment and excitement to millions of people." He says Australia has lost a wonderful and colorful son.
The 44-year-old Irwin had been honored by Australia's tourism industry for many projects associated with it, including a week-long trade promotion in California last winter called "G'Day L-A 2006."
His zoo won a national export award. Among the tribute mementos piling up there is a card from children with X's and O's and the simple words, "We will miss you."
(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)