'Croc Hunter' Believed He'd Die Early

Terri Irwin, right, wife of Australian environmentalist and television personality Steve Irwin with son Bob and manager John Stainton, left, attend a memorial service for her husband at Australia Zoo in Beerwah, Australia, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2006.
AP Photo/Steve Holland
"Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin always felt he would die early but that it would be a car wreck, not an animal, that killed him, the widow of the daredevil TV star and conservationist said Wednesday.

In her first interview since Irwin died from the jab of a stingray Sept. 4, Terri Irwin said her husband had an uncanny way with animals that both of them believed would keep him safe as he caught crocodiles, snatched up snakes and played with other dangerous beasts.

"I never thought it would be an animal, he never thought it would be an animal," Terri Irwin said in the interview with Australia's Nine Network, aired Wednesday. "I thought he would fall out of a tree, he thought it would be a car accident."

Asked by interviewer Ray Martin if Irwin believed he would die early, Terri said, "he had a very strong conviction that he would. To the point where I'm grateful in a way, because we're prepared."

Irwin, 44, died minutes after a stingray's barb pierced his chest while he filmed a TV show on the Great Barrier Reef. His death prompted an unprecedented outpouring of grief in Australia and among millions of fans of his televisions show "Crocodile Hunter."

A memorial service held for him last week at the family-owned wildlife park where he lived in Queensland state was broadcast on three television networks in Australia and picked up by international networks. Prime Minister John Howard attended, and Hollywood stars Russell Crowe, Cameron Diaz and others sent video condolences.

Terri Irwin, originally from Eugene, Oregon, has spoken publicly only twice since her husband's death, once to Martin and in a second interview with ABC television's Barbara Walters. The Walters interview is due to air Wednesday in the United States.

Terri Irwin said she has not seen the film of her husband's deadly encounter with a stingray and that it will never be shown on television.

"What purpose would that serve?" Terri Irwin said in the Walters interview, according to excerpts released in advance by ABC.

State Premier Peter Beattie announced on Wednesday the road that runs past the park in the hamlet of Beerwah would be renamed after the television star and conservationist.

"Steve Irwin and his family have put Beerwah on the map and I can think of no more fitting tribute," Beattie said.

Irwin's friend and business partner, John Stainton, has seen the film of his death. He told Walters he never wants to see it again and does not want anyone else to see it. "It's just a horrible piece of film tape," he said.

Terri Irwin was on a trip in Australia's southern Tasmania state with the couple's two children — 8-year-old daughter Bindi and 2-year-old son Bob — when her brother-in-law reached her with the news.

"I remember thinking, `Don't say it. Don't say it. Don't say it,"' she said. "I looked out the window, and Bindi was skipping, skipping along outside the window. And I thought, `Oh, my children. He wouldn't have wanted to leave the children.' And I knew it was an accident. It was an accident so stupid. It was like running with a pencil."

She said it is important for her family to continue the work her husband did in teaching the world about wildlife.

Irwin told Walters she is getting through her grief "one minute at a time."

By Rohan Sullivan