'Steve Irwin's dead': 10 years on, we still can't believe it
"STEVE Irwin's dead."
I remember first hearing those words as I walked into the Sunshine Coast Daily's newsroom ready to start another shift as the night editor.
Bill Hoffman, our most experienced journalist, had a tip from a source that the Crocodile Hunter had been in a horrible accident with a stingray while filming in north Queensland.
While television and radio news bulletins were starting to report that Steve had been seriously injured, our source informed us he was gone.
I still remember the stunning sense of disbelief among our staff, many of whom had interviewed and got to know this incredible character as he began to blossom on the world stage.
My wife phoned me after seeing the news that he had been injured. When I told her he was gone, we were both in tears.
The initial plan was to do a few pages of coverage on Steve's death.
But as we started our morning news conference, we abandoned every local story for 10 pages of coverage in the next day's paper.
Everyone had a Steve Irwin story to tell and no other story mattered that day.
As it turned out, no other story mattered for the next couple of weeks.
Our magazine tribute to Steve sold out twice and was even being flogged internationally on e-Bay.
The level of outpouring of grief outside of Australia Zoo at Beerwah was unprecedented.
Mothers, clutching children bearing cards and stuffed animals, shed tears as they patiently lined up to leave their tributes to a man who defined what it is to be Australian.
FLASHBACK TO OUR COVERAGE
As a reporter, Steve Irwin was someone you loved to spend time with. His passion for life was infectious, his energy boundless.
I remember laughing quietly to myself one day as he was telling me with extreme excitement of a roadside animal rescue he had been involved in.
It was a phone interview and I could almost see feel his arms waving as he told the tale.
I felt like saying to him, Steve, relax, it's just a phone interview, you don't need to do the theatrics for me.
But Steve was always like that. Always on. Battery level at 150% and showing no signs of draining.
It was never an act with him.
What your saw on television is what you got in real life, every time.
He loved telling stories, especially if they were about his beloved animals.
One of my favourite interviews with Steve was when former Premier Peter Beattie announced that crocodile and kangaroo appetisers would be served as part of the welcome for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).
Journalists had been invited to a tour of the Novotel Twin Waters Resort's restaurant to try the tasty creations and then cover a press conference with Mr Beattie.
I remember asking the Premier what Steve Irwin down the road would think of his beloved crocodiles and kangaroos being served up to overseas dignitaries.
Beattie took the bait, throwing down the challenge to Steve Irwin to lighten up and try them for himself.
At the time, Steve was on location filming and was very hard to reach.
I got a message to his assistant of the Premier's plan.
It wasn't long before Steve was on the phone, calling the Premier a 'bloody idiot'.
He was furious and let Beattie have it with both barrels.
Why America fell in love with Steve Irwin
LOOKING back now, it's easy to see why Americans, in particular, fell in love with Steve.
His personality was one of the biggest on the planet.
He was over the top. An ocker and ridiculously daring with animals.
He loved nothing better to bring Australia's most dangerous creatures to screens across the world.
The way he described the majesty of the apex predators, and demonstrated their savagery in his shows was infectious.
Watching some of his documentaries, where he got up close and personal with deadly snakes, you saw a man who had an incredible ability to judge what they might do next.
He seems to have a sixth sense, though apparently he learnt some pretty painful lessons with parrots.
Some of Steve Irwin's best quotes about animals
"I have no fear of losing my life - if I have to save a koala or a crocodile or a kangaroo or a snake, mate, I will save it.
I believe that education is all about being excited about something. Seeing passion and enthusiasm helps push an educational message.
You know, you can touch a stick of dynamite, but if you touch a venomous snake it'll
turn around and bite you and kill you so fast it's not even funny.
Yeah, I'm a thrill seeker, but crikey, education's the most important thing.
So fear helps me from making mistakes, but I make lot of mistakes.
The first crocodile I ever caught was at nine years of age, and it was a rescue.
Since I was a boy, from this house, I was out rescuing crocodiles and snakes. My mum and dad were very passionate about that and, I was lucky enough to go along.
"… my tactic with conservation of apex predators is to get people excited and take them to where they live."
Steve Irwin as a mate and dad
Above all, though, Steve Irwin was a loyal mate to his friends and a great family man.
Watching Bindi, who is the same age as my daughter, grow up without her dad has been both sad and inspirational.
I remember taking Caitlyn to the public memorial for Steve and seeing Bindi get up on that huge stage and touch us all with her tribute to her dad.
"My Daddy was my hero - he was always there for me when I needed him,'' an eight-year-old Bindi said, carefully following the lines of the speech with her finger.
"He listened to me and taught me so many things, but most of all he was fun,'' Bindi bravely continued in front of a packed Crocoseum and a global television audience of millions.
"I know that Daddy had an important job. He was working to change the world so everyone would love wildlife like he did. He built a hospital to help animals and he bought lots of land to give animals a safe place to live.
"He took me and my brother and my Mum with him all the time.
"We filmed together, caught crocodiles together and loved being in the bush together. I don't want Daddy's passion to ever end. I want to help endangered wildlife just like he did.
"I have the best Daddy in the whole world and I will miss him every day.
"When I see a crocodile I will always think of him and I know that Daddy made this zoo so everyone could come and learn to love all the animals.
"Daddy made this place his whole life and now it's our turn to help Daddy."
Bindi has certainly done that in the 10 years since. She said this week that the family still sensed Steve's presence around them and hoped he would be proud of what they had done since his death.
He would Bindi, very much so.
Bindi, Terri and Robert, have continued Steve's dream by expanding Australia Zoo and sharing his animal conservation message across the world.
I know that this Father's Day, he will be very much in the thoughts of Bindi and Robert as they again mourn his passing in their own private way.
10 years on, it's still just as hard to believe he's gone.
Happy Father's Day Steve.
As our front page headline said ten years ago, you were one of a kind.