News that Australia’s own crocodile hunter Steve Irwin has died had Web site traffic in overdrive Monday with many news sites operating on low bandwidth mode due to high traffic.

The spike spread across a number of news sites as Internet users were unsure if the sad news was a possible hoax.

Many news outlets ran unconfirmed reports that the 44-year-old television personality and environmentalist died in a marine accident in North Queensland when stung on the chest by a stingray.

Australian Associated Press (AAP) said the news was official based on unnamed police sources.

Irwin was famous for his catchphrase “Crikey!” AAP also said his American-born wife Terri, who is trekking on Cradle Mountain in Tasmania, was unaware of the news.

At 2:50 pm yesterday, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. had this notice on its site: “ is experiencing higher than normal traffic. You are currently viewing a low bandwidth page. The normal homepage will return when traffic is back to normal.”

Other sites operating on low bandwidth were NineMSN Pty Ltd.’s ninemsn site, and CNet Networks Inc.’s

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