Steve Irwin Talked His Dad Out of Suicide

04/07/2008 at 06:15 PM EDT

Steve Irwin Talked His Dad Out of Suicide
Bob and Steve Irwin
Steve Holland/AP; Bob King/Corbis
The late Crocodile Hunter star Steve Irwin didn't just save wildlife – he saved his father, Bob, from taking his own life after the death of the elder Irwin's first wife in a 2000 car accident.

In an interview that aired Down Under Monday on a TV program called Australian Story, Bob Irwin, 68, recounted his grief over his wife Lynn and how, in the depths of despondency, he packed up his truck and headed to a "special spot" that he'd shared in the past with Lynn and Steve, reports Australia's The Age newspaper.

As Bob Irwin told the story, his cell phone rang in the truck, and it was Steve. "He said, 'I know what you're going to do', and I didn't really have an answer for that and then he said, 'Well, wait there, I'll come with you because we both might as well go.'

"And I said, 'You can't do that' because he had [daughter] Bindi at that stage and he said, 'Well, if you're going to do it, then I'm coming.' I just felt at the time I just couldn't let him do it and he knew that."

Bob Irwin considers the telepathy one of the gifts he shared with his son. "We were so close that we both knew what the other person was thinking a lot of the time and I just couldn't let him do it," he said. "So I had to come back in. That's probably one of the hardest things I've ever done."

Bob credits second wife Judy with helping him cope with the loss of Lynn.

Possible Family Rift

Steve Irwin died on Sept. 14, 2006, when he was stung by a stingray while filming a documentary at Batt Reef, Low Isle off Port Douglas. He was 44.

The Irwins' Australia Zoo was turned over to his father and Steve's widow, Terri. Last month, Bob Irwin withdrew his participation from the conservation center, amid reports that Terri Irwin sought to commercialize the facility.

"I just felt that it was better for everybody concerned if I left Australia Zoo, and Judy and I and all our friends were able to continue Steve's work the way I believe it should be done," he said. "I don't see why my family life and my personal issues should be aired publicly and ... um, there would be no way that I will discuss those with the media."

As the Age also reports, Terri Irwin, 43, likewise deferred from commenting on personal matters, but said of her father-in-law: "I know he's continuing with wildlife rehabilitation on a smaller property, and out of respect to a gentleman whom I've known 16 years and who is a man of retirement age who's gone through so much – losing his wife and his only son – that I will respectfully just leave it at that, because Bob is a pretty private person."

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