A father of six has died from injuries caused by an “intense wave” that struck him while he was playing with his kids at the beach in Oak Island, N.C.
Lee Dingle, 37, was swimming with three of his children when “an intense wave hit him just right to slam his head into the sand and break his neck,” according to his wife.
The incident happened on Thursday at around 5:45 p.m., local news station WWAY reported.
Bystanders and Dingle’s children rushed to his aid and he was later transported to an intensive care unit. He died the following day.
Dingle’s wife Shannon, who is a journalist, posted a lengthy tribute to him in a Twitter thread on Friday.
“My partner, my love, and my home died today after a freak accident,” she wrote. “We met when I was 18 and he was 19, and we’ve been together ever since.
“I wasn’t supposed to be saying goodbye at 37.”
Lee Dingle was an engineer and a passionate advocate for adoption. He and Shannon built a large family together with two biological children and four adopted children. The latest addition to their family was Zoe, a girl with cerebral palsy adopted from Taiwan a few years ago.
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“It just breaks your heart,” family friend April Schweitzer told local station ABC11. “You feel such overwhelming sorrow and grief for the family.”
Schweitzer says Lee was a dedicated father who supported and encouraged every one of his kids.
“I feel like anyone who knew him was a better person for their interactions with him,” she said.
Dingle’s death has sparked an outpouring of sympathy from many who knew him, including those at the Archibald Project, a pro-adoption NGO.
“We first met Lee Dingle in the Taipei airport as we were travelling with he and his wife, Shannon, to document their first adoption of a little Taiwanese girl with cerebral palsy,” the Archibald Project wrote on its Facebook page. “Over the years we’ve watched Lee and Shannon fight injustice and open their home and hearts.
“We are grieved and saddened to share the tragic passing of a beautiful man and father.”
A verified GoFundMe campaign has raised more than US$150,000 for Lee’s widow and their children.
“As the Dingle family picks up the pieces they will need to pay for funeral expenses and need some time to get their feet under them,” campaign organizer Lisa Watterson wrote. “Lee’s death is shocking to all of us. The last thing his family needs is to worry about bills.”
Shannon Dingle offered a longer tribute to her late husband in a blog post on Monday.
“If you didn’t know him, I’m sorry. You missed out,” she wrote.
“I don’t know how to be a grown up without him, but I’ll learn. I just wish I didn’t have to.”