Moon Hawler

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Hundreds queued for tickets to a farewell for "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin in the "Crocoseum" of his Australian Zoo, with scores turned away on Friday after all-night vigils when tickets ran out.

With only 3,000 places available for the public memorial next Wednesday, people lined up for more than a day outside ticket boxes at the Zoo on the Sunshine Coast of tropical Queensland state, as well as the nearby city of Maroochydore and the capital Brisbane.

"It's indescribable, it's joy, it's elation," Melissa Power told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio after a 25-hour wait to secure tickets for her family to Irwin's service.

"I'm sleep-deprived, but I'm joyous and happy and it's just everything."

Irwin, whose "Crocodile Hunter" documentaries were watched by more than 200 million people around the world, died when the serrated barb from the tail of a stingray pierced his heart while he was diving off northeast Australia on September 4.

A Brisbane football stadium had at one stage been considered as a venue for his memorial, but Irwin's wife Terri said the zoo's central Crocoseum was the only suitable place.

Irwin used the arena to feed live crocodiles while surrounded by snakes, birds and the other native Australian wildlife.

Zoo marketing manager Peter Lang said the free tickets had been given away in only 15 minutes for what would be a celebration of Irwin's life.

Terri Irwin has asked mourners to make a donation to Irwin's Wildlife Warriors conservation fund.

The memorial will be broadcast live around Australia, as well as in the United States and throughout Asia.

Irwin's family and friends held a private funeral service, which included stories told around a campfire at the zoo last weekend.


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