Page last updated at 12:09 GMT, Tuesday, 4 August 2009 13:09 UK

Town rallies round soldier family

Lee Porter
Lee Porter, 30, died in a Surrey hospital last Friday

A soldier from Coleraine, County Londonderry, has died after contracting swine flu in England.

It is thought Lee Porter, a bombardier in the Royal Artillery, is the first UK serviceman to have died from the virus.

Reverend Peter Fleming of Coleraine First Presbyterian Church said the town has rallied around the Porter family.

"Lee was pretty involved in the community, in his work in the Fire Service and with the Army Cadet and Territorial Army," he said.

"He gave a lot of time to people and served in the community."

The 30-year-old died in a Surrey hospital last Friday, two weeks after falling sick. It is understood he had underlying health problems.

Rev Fleming said Mr Porter's parents had been in the US when they had heard the news that he was ill.

"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."

In a statement, the Ministry of Defence said: "Our thoughts go out to his family, who were at his bedside."

He is the 28th person known to have died after getting swine flu in England. Three people have died in Scotland.

Last week health officials said there were indications the number of swine flu cases in England is no longer rising rapidly and may have "plateaued."

However, England's Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, said he expected an upsurge later in the year.

"I think we are probably seeing a downturn in the illness at the moment but we don't anticipate it staying away," he said.

"We expect to see a big surge in autumn."

Northern Ireland is the area of the UK least affected by swine flu.

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