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Dad who died in freak ocean accident donates his organs and tissues

Lee Dingle, the North Carolina dad of six who died after an ocean wave broke his neck, donated his organs and tissues, offering the potential to save up to 75 lives, a donor organization said.
/ Source: TODAY

Lee Dingle, the North Carolina dad who died in a freak beach accident on Friday, carried out his final act of kindness by donating his organs and tissues.

The donation has the potential to save up to 75 lives, according to Danielle Niedfeldt, CEO and president of Carolina Donor Services, the organization that facilitated the recovery and placement of Dingle's organs.

Father of six dies after ocean wave breaks his neck
The Dingle family. Lee Dingle died after breaking his neck in the North Carolina surf last week. GoFundMe/Love for the Dingle Family

Those that knew Dingle are not surprised by his selflessness.

“Of course, Lee chose to donate everything he possibly could,” close family friend Arinn Widmayer told TODAY. “That’s the kind of person Lee was in life. The fact that he made that decision early to help other people after his death makes perfect sense.”

Dingle was in the water with his children off Oak Island when an intense wave hit him and slammed his head into the sand, breaking his neck, his wife said. The 37-year-old engineer and his wife, Shannon, have six children together between ages 7 and 12, four of whom were adopted.

Shannon Dingle opened up about Lee's selfless gift on Twitter Monday.

“While we are grateful Lee’s organs will live on in others, please never use this to try to paint a silver lining around our deep grief. We would rather have him here,” Dingle wrote. “Being told my dead husband’s organs can help so many because [he] was so healthy will never be easy to hold.”

She encouraged her Twitter followers to speak to loved ones about their wishes.

“Lee was a registered organ donor, but the consent for donation comes from the next of kin,” the writer and activist explained.

Nationally, there are approximately 115,000 individuals waiting for an organ transplant. Though 145 million people have registered as organ donors, only about 3 in 1,000 qualify to become donors, according to

There were 10,721 deceased donors in 2018, who made 29,680 organ transplants possible, according to United Network for Organ Sharing.

“Lee is a hero,” Niedfeldt told TODAY. “I’ve been doing this for many years and it never ceases to inspire me how people can think of complete strangers at such a devastating time.”