On 4 September 2006, Irwin was fatally pierced in the chest by a stingray barb, while off the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, Australia while filming a segment for his daughter Bindi Irwin's (8 years old at the time) upcoming series. Irwin was in the area filming his own documentary, to be called Ocean's Deadliest, but weather had stalled filming. Irwin decided to take the opportunity to film some shallow water shots for his daughter's program. The BBC reported that this was only the second known fatality in Australian history from a stingray attack. The Sydney Morning Herald lists it as the third known death; the other two deaths being in 1938 and 1945.
Shortly after 11:00 a.m. local time (01:00 UTC), Irwin was filming in the Low Isles, Queensland near Port Douglas, north of Cairns, Queensland, Australia, (Map of where Irwin died) , where he was stung either through his heart  or through the left side of his chest After he was stung, his crew called for medical help and attempted to resuscitate him. The Queensland Rescue Helicopter responded, taking him to Cairns Base Hospital. However, Irwin was pronounced dead at noon. He was not killed by the sting itself but from a puncture to the heart in turn causing cardiac arrest. The Queensland Police Service notified his family and released a statement for the media concerning the event.
News of his death prompted a public outpouring expressing shock and loss. Several Australian news websites went down due to high web traffic  and talk-back radio experienced a high volume of callers expressing their grief , commemorating his passion and exuberance. Prime Minister John Howard, among many other politicians, expressed his "shock and distress" at the death, saying that "Australia has lost a wonderful and colourful son.”  Steve Irwin's body was flown to a morgue in Cairns, where stunned family and friends were gathering on Monday night. His American-born wife Terri was told of her husband's death while on a walking tour in Tasmania, and returned to the Sunshine Coast with her two children, Bindi (eight) and two-year-old son Bob.