The Australian actor mourns Crocodile Hunter friend after tragic accident

Russell Crowe has paid tribute to cult hero Steve Irwin.

The Oscar-winning actor befriended his fellow Aussie in 2002.

Speaking from New York, Russell, 42, said: ‘He was and remains the ultimate wildlife warrior. He touched my heart. I believed in him. I miss him. I loved him and I’ll be there for his family.’

Steve, who died on Monday when a stingray attacked him during a shoot at Batt Reef in Queensland, worked tirelessly for conservation charities. He shot to fame with hit TV show The Crocodile Hunter.

His home state of Queensland has even offered to give him a State funeral if his family agrees.

The 44-year-old’s body was flown back to his Sunshine Coast home yesterday where his wife Terri and their children Bindi, eight, and Bob, two, were waiting.

Hundreds of fans have left flowers and tributes – including signed khaki shirts – at his zoo near Brisbane.

In Thailand 20 elephant drivers laid a wreath in front of a poster of Steve and held a minute’s silence. He was said to have promised a donation to help safeguard the elephant’s future.