Belfast Telegraph

Mother's moving tribute to 'inspiring' Navy hero of tsunami, dead at age of 36

By Chris Kilpatrick

The mother of a naval officer who died from breast cancer just days before Christmas has described her as an inspiration.

Lisa Jane Black from Ballycastle was just 36.

She passed away in hospital on Monday surrounded by family and was buried in her home town on Christmas Eve.

Ms Black, who was a navigation officer with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, had travelled the world during her service and had previously helped those struck by the devastating tsunami that brought carnage to south east Asia on Boxing Day 2004.

She had also served as equerry to the Earl of Wessex, Prince Edward.

It was believed Ms Black had defeated the disease earlier this year only for it to return.

Her mother, Madeline Black, told the Belfast Telegraph she was drawing comfort from her daughter's bravery.

"She inspired everybody she talked to, particularly anybody suffering from cancer," Mrs Black said.

"She had a stoic attitude. Lisa had been given the all-clear in September, but sadly it was a very ferocious cancer.

"This day 10 years ago her ship was in the area of the tsunami.

"I can remember waking up and jumping out of bed.

"Her ship was on the coast and they went to help. Her sisters Kate and Paula and niece Leah were so important to her."

Hundreds of tributes to Ms Black were posted online, with many praising her courageous fight against breast cancer following diagnosis last year.

One read: "She was by far the best all-round human being I've known. Tough but always happy. Stubborn without question. Her smile, just like her energy, was relentless. The doctors couldn't understand the amount of drugs it took to sedate her. Enough to stop a horse, they said. That was Lisa. One seriously tough girl.

"My life will be so much richer having spent time and having worked with this amazing woman. The few precious moments her family allowed me at her bedside in the final days I will always remember. They have filled me with a renewed vigour for living. Her strength, attitude and dignity, given zero odds, have touched our team and myself deeply."

Back in 2008 Lisa and Madeline - a former chair of Moyle District Council - travelled to London to receive a medal awarded to Lisa's late father, Captain Gerard Black.

Captain Black was honoured with the Merchant Navy Medal for his contribution to shipping during his 43 years service at sea.

Lisa joined up with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary as a deck cadet back in 2001.

She served on a variety of ships and in 2007 was appointed equerry to the Earl of Wessex.

She retired from service in 2013 after 12 years.

In a statement, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary said: "She was highly thought of by her fellow shipmates and friends ashore.

"Lisa had been under treatment for breast cancer and for a time was thought to have been winning the battle - sadly, this was not to be."

Lisa hit the headlines a decade ago when she was among those who provided urgent aid to an isolated Sri Lankan community left devastated by the tsunami disaster.

As a member of the crew involved in Operation Garron, she helped the stricken community of Kalladar, which could only be reached by helicopter or boats.

The team provided shelter for those whose homes were destroyed and worked to make wells safe to drink from again, cleared debris from the shafts and pumped out salt water contamination left behind by the tsunami.

The team also worked to repair and refloat fishing boats left damaged and stranded on the shore.

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