Local Experts talk about Steve Irwin Death

Nick Fidelibus, Dive Instructor
Nick Fidelibus, Dive Instructor
John Naughton, Ocean Expert
John Naughton, Ocean Expert

Sep 5, 2006 07:18 AM

by Joann Shin

(KHNL) - Nick Fidelibus washes down scuba gear after taking a group out to dive.

He's says everyone had one thing on their mind.

"Lots of tourists coming in today asking if we had heard about Steve Irwin and if they were going to see sting rays," said Fidelibus, a dive instructor at Waikiki Dive Center.

He says his groups often come across sting rays in the waters off Hawaii Kai.

but he's says he's never thought of them as dangerous.

"They usually run away from people. They won't stay," explained Fidelibus.

Ocean expert John Naughton was also surprised by the news.

"When I first heard Steve Irwin had been killed, I immediately thought it was a poisonous snake or salt water crocodile," said Naughton with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Adminstration Fisheries Service.

Naughton says his death is shocking because rays don't have the reputation of a killer.

He said, "they're very docile animals."

But that's not to say rays won't strike if they feel threatened.

Their weapon is this barb or boney spike at the base of the tail.

When a ray feels it's in danger, the barb loaded with a toxin will rise.

According to Naughton, "with the movement of the body, they can thrust these into unsuspecting person or aggressive animal."

Naughton says getting stung is painful, but rarely fatal.

He explained, "He had to get very close to it for it to thrust up into the chest cavity."

He says Steve Irwin will be greatly missed.

"Whether it's poisonous snakes, crocodiles, sharks or whatever, we're really going to miss a person like him with a personality like his."