Lee Dingle was playing with his children at Oak Island beach when the large wave struck him and broke his neck.

By Char Adams
July 22, 2019
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Credit: Joel Sharpe/Getty Images

A father of six has died after being struck by a strong wave and suffering a broken neck during a trip to the beach with his family in North Carolina on Thursday, his wife announced.

Lee Dingle, 37, was playing in the water with three of his children at Oak Island beach when a large wave crashed into him, his wife, Shannon Dingle, wrote in a blog post.

“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,” Shannon wrote, describing his death as a “freak accident.”

“Some heroes — including our kids — tried to save him,” she added, “but it wouldn’t have mattered what they did. His body couldn’t recover from the initial injury.”

He died the next day.

Atlas Engineering
| Credit: Atlas Engineering

Oak Island Water Rescue wrote in a Facebook post that emergency responders were quickly on the scene to provide Lee with emergency care and “advanced life support” on the beach. Beachgoers swam to Lee and pulled him to shore, according to WWAY, and authorities were called to the scene at around 5:45 p.m.

“A powerful wave at the beach, something totally unexpected. There was just too much swelling to do anything for him,” family friend April Schweitzer told WRAL, saying that Lee was a model husband and father. “I think anyone who knew Lee was just a better person for having known him and for having that example of kindness and love and generosity in our lives.”

Lee was the president of Atlas Engineering, a building repair company in Raleigh, according to CNN. Senior partner Tom Caldwell told CNN that Lee had been promoted to president just two weeks before his death.

GoFundMe page set up for the family has raised over $158,000 in about two days.

The family garnered national attention in 2016 when they worked to modify a van for their daughter Zoe, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, WTVD reported. A local resident, Angel Rigsbee, pitched in to help the family.

Now, Shannon says she and her family’s lives are “forever changed.”

“We met when I was 18 and he was 19, and we’ve been together ever since,” she wrote in her blog post. I wasn’t supposed to be saying goodbye at 37. I don’t know how to be a grown up without him, but I’ll learn. I just wish I didn’t have to.”

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