'Croc Hunter' Kids May Follow in Dad's Footsteps

Sept. 6, 2006 — -- As thousands of mourners make their way to Australia's sunshine coast to pay respects to their beloved "Crocodile Hunter," Steve Irwin, some observers predict his children will carry on their father's legacy.

Irwin died Monday after a stingray plunged a poisonous barb into his chest.

His widow, Terri, spoke publicly for the first time since his death, thanking her husband's staff Tuesday in an emotional speech.

"She was very choked up. It was a very frail comment," Michael Hornby, the head of one of Irwin's wildlife charities, Wildlife Warriors, said to The Associated Press today.

"But she wanted to say to thestaff how grateful she was for their support and how much it meantto her."

Irwin's father, Bob Irwin, spoke about his close bond with his son in a news conference Tuesday night.

"Steve and I weren't like father and son. We were good mates," he said. "I have torecover because Steve will want his work carried on, and I might be able tofill in until Bind and Robert [Steve Irwin's children] are old enough to take over."

Irwin's daughter, Bindi, 8, and son, Bob, 2, made frequent appearances on their father's TV show.

Bindi already has her own TV show.

"It's up to us to take care of our whole entire universe," Bindi said on one show.

Irwin once described his daughter as a "real wildlife warrior."

Like Superman to Kids

Now Bindi and Bob must battle through the loss oftheir father, as other children struggle with the loss of an icon.

Eric Hoffman hoped a visit to the New York Aquarium's shark and stingraytank would help his three children understand what happened to one of theirheroes.

"They just listened and took it all in," Hoffman said.

All across the country and on national TV parents have mused about thebest way to break the bad news.

"I had to tell them. It's like when Superman died," said Rosie O'Donnell, a new co-host of "The View."

On "Live With Regis and Kelly," co-host Kelly Ripa said her son also compared Irwin to Superman.

"He said, 'I'm trying to picture it, mom, but I can't picture him dying because he's like more than Superman.'"

The kids visiting the New York Aquarium had already absorbed several lessons.

"A stingray found his heart, and it stung it," one little girl said.

A young boy added, "And that's really rare for people to die from it."

Kim Dell'Angela, a professor of pediatric psychiatry at Loyola University in Chicago, said parents should talk openly about Irwin's death.

"Be alert for signs the child is upset and sort of just gently open the conversation," Dell'Angela said. "Clarify any misconceptions kids have about what happened."