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Irwin's funeral in Crocomuseum

Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Sydney (Reuters): Thousands of Australians will be able to farewell ''Crocodile Hunter'' Steve Irwin at a public memorial to be held at the ''Crocoseum'' in his beloved Australia Zoo, the TV naturalist's wife said today. ''I cannot see how a memorial service would work in any place other than the Crocoseum which he built here at the zoo and of which he was so proud,'' US-born Terri Irwin said in a statement, her first public comments since his death on September 4. Irwin, whose ''Crocodile Hunter'' documentaries were watched by more than 200 million people around the world, died when the serrated barb from the tail of a normally placid stingray pierced his heart while he was diving off northeast Australia.

His death prompted an extraordinary outpouring of grief in Australia and around the world, with Internet sites clogged as fans sought news about the man they had watched wrestle some of the world's most dangerous animals. Terri Irwin thanked them for their ''overwhelming outpouring of love''. The memorial next Wednesday will be broadcast live around Australia, as well as in the United States and throughout Asia. Tickets will be available for 5,500 people, with those wanting to attend the memorial service asked to make a donation to Irwin's Wildlife Warriors conservation fund, Terri Irwin said. Large screens will be set up in Brisbane and near Irwin's Zoo on the Sunshine Coast in tropical Queensland state so that those unable to get places in the zoo can watch.

Irwin's family and friends held a private funeral service, which included stories told around, a campfire at the zoo last weekend. Close friends had said a Brisbane football stadium was being considered as a possible venue for the public memorial but Terri Irwin said the zoo was the only suitable place. The ''Crocoseum'' arena is the centrepiece of the Australia Zoo, where Irwin fed live crocodiles in pools surrounded by snakes, birds and the other native Australian wildlife. Australia was rocked by the loss of two of its dearest icons last week. Renowned racing driver Peter Brock was killed in a race accident near Perth on Friday, further plunging the nation into grief. Irwin's family, which turned down the offer of a state funeral, chose next Wednesday for the service so that it would not clash with Brock's state funeral yesterday.

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