RIP Steve Irwin, Crocodile Hunter

Filed under:Sad — posted by Anwyn on September 4, 2006 @ 7:32 pm

So sad, and so young: 44. Allah has a tribute, as does a poster at Ace’s, Jack M., whose personal life was affected by Irwin’s public one.

Thought I didn’t watch his show, I saw him in snippets and on other shows, and I enjoyed Steve’s antics and appreciated his tremendous enthusiasm for his work. It is heartbreaking to be so brutally reminded that the best, most energetic, most dedicated people can be taken by the work they love in one unforeseeable moment.

For those of us with small children, a fitting memory of Irwin is captured in this little snippet by The Wiggles, from the Wiggly Safari DVD they made with Irwin and his family, showcasing the Australia Zoo (follow this link and click on the top yellow button to hear):

Crocodile hunter! Big Steve Irwin–
Crocodile hunter! Action man!
Crocodile hunter! Terri too–
“Crikey, it’s a croc! I’ll save it if I can!”

Update: Irwin pulled the barb from his chest before he died. Gives a new example in the dictionary under “great heart.”

I waded into it at Hot Air with a couple of folks who thought it would’ve been a better idea for Irwin not to do what he considered his life’s work so that he’d still be alive. I took the emotional position first–“Do you have to point that out right after he dies,” etc. Nobody denies that the guy’s work was risky, but he took those risks knowingly and was free to do so.

But more than that, as Hot Air commenter Pablo reminded me, this swim that resulted in his death should have been–and on paper, was–a lesser risk than the things Irwin did every other day of his professional life. The human mind weighs risk on a relative scale; risks that would have been appropriate before I had a child vs. after; risks that are untried vs. risky things I’ve successfully accomplished before, etc. I used the word “unforeseeable” above, which may seem like a silly choice given Irwin’s profession. But as I commented at Doug TenNapel’s, even for habitual risk takers, an accidental death is avoidable only if you see it coming. The daily round of my life suggests that driving my car is a reasonable risk–I’ve done it without incident too many times to count. But freak accidents–like the stingray unexpectedly feeling threatened–can happen. Somebody could run a red light and broadside me. While that’s conceivably foreseeable, it’s so unlikely as to render the risk far less than the benefit of driving my car. So with Irwin–a sting almost anywhere else in his body would not have killed him. His death might conceivably have been foreseeable–his manager, in the MSNBC link above, commented that they were aware that the ocean was far less familiar territory for Irwin. But his risk when he got into the water seems to have been, in his estimation, a reasonable one, and to say that he should have seen it coming or that the odds just caught up with him, while conventional wisdom on its face, is cynical at best and wrong, not to say rude in the face of his death, at worst.

image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace