A 37-year-old engineer from Raleigh died Friday after what his wife described as “an intense wave” threw him into the sand, breaking his neck near the Southeast Third Street beach access Thursday.
Lee Dingle was playing in the water with three of the couples’ six children at about 5 p.m. when a wave slammed him into the sand. His wife, Christian writer Shannon Dingle, wrote in her blog that swelling from the injury was so severe that his brain couldn’t get enough oxygen.
“Some heroes – including our kids – tried to save him, but it wouldn’t have mattered what they did,” Dingle wrote. “His body couldn’t recover from the initial injury.”
Oak Island Fire Chief Chris Anselmo said bystanders were performing cardio-pulmonary resuscitation on the victim when he and other responders arrived.
Paramedics called for a LifeFlight helicopter, which landed in front of Fire Station 1 at East Oak Island Drive, but Anselmo said the patient’s pulse was intermittent, and there’s not enough space on board the chopper to perform CPR.
Brunswick County Emergency Medical Services, with help from St. James and Oak Island responders, sped the victim to New Hanover Regional Medical Center, where he was treated in the intensive care unit.
Responders initially thought they were called to a near-drowning, Anselmo said. Dingle died the following day.
A civil engineer, Dingle was a graduate of N.C. State University with 15 years of experience who served as president of Raleigh-based Atlas Engineering. He was a certified emergency responder for collapse rescue.
“We met when I was 18 and he was 19, and we’ve been together ever since,” Dingle wrote in her blog. “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.”
Other responders were Oak Island Police and Oak Island Water Rescue, which transported the victim off the beach to the ambulance.
Dingle wrote of her gratitude for those who helped the family.
“The strangers on the beach and emergency responders from Oak Island and later medical professionals who worked on Lee are some of the finest and best people in the world,” she wrote. “Additional response from Oak Island leaders, including the mayor, has been compassionate and kind. Please know that, if anything, everything involving Oak Island has made me certain it is the finest beach community there is. No one can give us back the one thing we want, but they did and have continued to do literally everything else possible.”
Mayor Cin Brochure said the town would host a “Banding Together” benefit concert for the family on Saturday, August 10, at 6:30 p.m. at Middleton Park. Cindy Farmer will serve as master of ceremonies and the performers will be announced later.
Lisa Watterson has started a GoFundMe account to assist the family.
Shannon Dingle, 37, is a teacher and writer whose work has appeared in USA Today, Teen Vogue and The Washington Post. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a master’s in education from East Carolina University.
Her family includes two biological children with Lee and three siblings the couple adopted from Uganda. The couple also adopted a girl from Taiwan.