THE Daily was there with the Sunshine Coast community as it grieved the loss of the Crocodile Hunter.

Many people, both on the Coast and overseas, can still recall where they were when they heard the news Steve Irwin had died.

His death on September 4, 2006, hit the public like the death of Elvis or Princess Diana.

It was not possible, was it? Not possible to believe that such a larger than life character could be gone.

As news filtered through, journalists headed to Australia Zoo at Beerwah seeking official comment and to capture the public reaction.

"I know that's what people are saying but I don't actually believe it. It can't be right," a visitor told the Daily as she left the zoo.

The sheer randomness of the Crocodile Hunter's death made it even more incomprehensible.

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Steve, 44, had been filming for a television program when a stingray flicked a barb which pierced his heart.

His wife, Terri, was bushwalking in Tasmania when she got the news and immediately flew home with their children, Bindi and Robert, then aged eight and three.

The public's initial disbelief soon gave way to an outpouring of grief never before seen on the Coast and unlikely to be seen again.

A shrine of flowers, photographs and cards grew outside the Zoo as fans and followers reeling from the tragedy paid their respects.

Children, Hollywood actors, politicians, academics - everyone had something to say about the local bloke who had become an international name simply through his love of animals, his passion for wildlife, and the uninhibited way he embraced life itself.

The Daily was inundated with messages for the Irwin family, devoting whole pages to notes and letters.

"He's a bloody legend who unfortunately cannot be replaced," wrote Andrew Collins of Sippy Downs.

"I cry for no reason throughout the day," wrote Jessica of Buderim. "Steve was my hero," wrote Dylan from California.

"God must have a huge croc problem up in heaven that couldn't be solved any other way," wrote Melody from Texas.

Authorities paid tribute to Mr Irwin for putting the Coast on the world map and said his passing had left a void that Australian tourism would find hard to fill.

Public discussion turned to how to acknowledge his passing and there was talk of a state funeral.

In the end, his family opted for a private funeral but scheduled a public memorial service at the Zoo on September 20.

Three thousands tickets were made available.

People queued overnight and the tickets were gone within minutes.

Police, fearing traffic chaos, urged those without tickets to stay away.

Steve's manager and friend John Stainton shielded Steve's family from the intense media focus as much as he could in the days immediately after the tragedy.

Steve's father, Bob, in an interview outside the Zoo two days after his son's death, said he had lost his best mate and thanked Australians for their support.

"I'm a lucky, lucky guy. I've had the opportunity to have a son like Steve," he said.

A heartbroken Terri Irwin did not speak at the memorial service, which was opened by actor Russell Crowe, attended by the Prime Minister John Howard and other politicians, and included a performance of true blue by John Williamson.

But Bindi, of whom Steve was so proud, did her dad proud.

Standing in front of a huge image of her smiling father, said what needed to be said.

"My daddy was my hero - he was working to change the world."

"I have the best daddy in the whole world and I will miss him every day."

The Daily published a special tribute to Steve Irwin in the days after his death and later, a 16-page tribute.
Circulation staff fielded enquiries from overseas from people seeking copies of the papers for their scrapbooks so they would have something to remember their hero by.

A week after the service, the State Government announced that the road running past the zoo would be named Steve Irwin Way in his honour.



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