Television star Steve Irwin has been killed while filming an underwater documentary in Queensland.

The 44-year-old, who was dubbed 'The Crocodile Hunter', was killed by a stingray barb through the chest while diving off Port Douglas.

Local diving operator Steve Edmundson said: "Steve was hit by a stingray in the chest. He probably died from a cardiac arrest from the injury."

Police confirmed that paramedics were flown to nearby Low Isles, where Irwin was taken to be treated, but he died before they arrived.

Irwin, who runs the world famous Australia Zoo, is survived by his wife Terri and their two young children, Bindi Sue and Bob Clarence.

Speaking to Sky Television, Queensland Tourism Minister Margaret Keech said: "It's a dreadful loss for the tourism industry and for nature conservation."

"Everybody who met Steve was impressed with his energy and his enthusiasm," she said.

Irwin made almost 50 'Crocodile Hunter' documentaries, which earned him worldwide acclaim for his dare-devil stunts with animals.