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Father of 6 dies at age 37 after ocean wave breaks his neck

Those close to Lee Dingle described him as a levelheaded family man who could always be counted on.
/ Source: TODAY

A North Carolina father was enjoying a beach day with his children on Oak Island Thursday when tragedy struck. Lee Dingle was killed after an ocean wave pummeled him in what his family described as a "freak accident."

“An intense wave hit him just right to slam his head into the sand, break his neck, and make his throat swell so much his brain was deprived of oxygen for too long to recover,” his wife, Shannon Dingle, wrote in a blog post Monday. “Some heroes — including our kids — tried to save him, but it wouldn’t have mattered what they did. His body couldn’t recover from the initial injury.”

The accident took the engineer's life at age 37.

“I don’t know how to be a grown up without him, but I’ll learn," wrote Shannon, who says she and Lee met as teenagers. "I just wish I didn’t have to.”

The Dingles have six children together between ages 7 and 12, four of which were adopted. They include three siblings from Uganda and a daughter named Zoe, who was born in Taiwan and has cerebral palsy.

The Archibald Project, an orphan care advocacy organization that documented Zoe’s adoption, shared condolences on Facebook, describing Lee as a “beautiful man and father.”

Family friend Arinn Widmayer told TODAY that Lee was unflappable.

"He was the kind of guy you could count on for anything," Widmayer said. "Other dads will say, 'Oh, I need a break from the kids,' but not Lee. He much preferred to be with them. He was the consummate family man."

Shannon echoed the sentiment in her blog post.

“If you didn’t know him, I’m sorry. You missed out,” she wrote. “As you hear people share stories, you’ll find no person can be that wonderful. But he really and truly was.”

The grieving mother also wrote that she is comforted by the outpouring of love her family has received. A GoFundMe page has already raised more than $173,000.

Father of six dies after ocean wave breaks his neck
"This will be a long haul, our lives forever changed," Shannon Dingle, the wife of Lee Dingle, wrote in a blog post. The couple together share six children, pictured above.GoFundMe/Love for the Dingle Family

“In all this, I’m discovering I have the world’s best people,” Shannon noted. “I didn’t know it was possible to feel both so loved and so empty all at the same time. This will be a long haul, our lives forever changed, so please keep loving us well months from now.”

Shannon signed off by thanking “strangers on the beach,” emergency responders and the medical professionals who cared for Lee.

“Please know that, if anything, everything involving Oak Island has made me certain it is the finest beach community there is,” she wrote. “No one can give us back the one thing we want, but they did and have continued to do literally everything else possible.”