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Swine flu soldier was ‘a laugh and good at his job’

By Victoria O’Hara

Colleagues of Northern Ireland’s first swine flu victim have spoken of the loss that will be felt by the community following his death — paying tribute to his professionalism and sense of fun.

Lee Porter (30) from Coleraine, contracted the deadly H1N1 virus two weeks ago.

The bombadier in the Royal Artillery is believed to be the first person from Northern Ireland and the first UK serviceman to have died from the virus.

Ann Henry, a sergeant in the TA based in Coleraine, knew him for around 12 years and said he had been dedicated to the role.

“He was a good lad, good for a laugh and good at his job,” she said.

“He was an instructor with the Army Cadets and taught children from the age of 13.

“He had been a cadet himself.”

Mrs Henry said Mr Porter, who also worked as a manual techician for the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, had been away with the Army Cadets in England when he fell ill.

He was rushed to Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey for treatment and placed on life support. He died on Friday.

Mrs Henry said Mr Porter’s death will be felt by his former TA colleagues.

“We usually meet every Wednesday, but this will have a big effect on people.”

Her husband Peter, who is also in the TA, said the news of his death had left friends and local people stunned.

“When we heard he was in the hospital for such a long time we thought he was getting better.

“When we heard that Lee had died we were just in shock.

“It will be hard to take in that he won’t be around.”

Louis Jones, deputy Chief Fire Officer described him as a “valued member” of the staff.

“Lee will be greatly missed by all his NIFRS colleagues.”

Reverend Peter Fleming of Coleraine First Presbyterian Church said the town has provided support for the Porter family.

He added that they had to fly back from America after recieving the news.

“They had to return to the south of England to be with him in hospital,” he said.

“It's been exhausting, and now with this shock and bereavement they are having a very difficult and very hard time adjusting to unexpected loss of their son.”

Further tributes were also posted on the internet networking site Bebo.

Kerry Mills wrote: “Missing you loads Lee, you were a great person, a true gent and an unbelievable friend.”

Mr Porter’s funeral is expected to be held on Saturday.

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