Community shows its love for Dingle family after father is killed by wave on NC coast

Community support has overflowed for the family of a Raleigh man who died Friday when struck by a wave while playing in the North Carolina surf with his children.

By Tuesday afternoon, donors had contributed more than $254,000 to a gofundme account set up for Shannon Dingle, widow of Lee Dingle. The family friend who created the account had sought $200,000 to cover funeral expenses and provide temporary financial support for Shannon Dingle and the couple’s six children.

A note on the account says donations above the goal will be given to the family.

Lee Dingle, 37, was vacationing at Oak Island when an intense wave knocked him down and broke his neck, according to his wife, blogger Shannon Dingle. In posts on Facebook and Twitter, Shannon Dingle said the injury caused her husband’s throat to swell, depriving his brain of oxygen.

Though they were unable to save her husband, Shannon Dingle thanked those who tried to help in a post on her blog.

“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.”

Dingle is a popular blogger, author and social media personality who has written from a Christian perspective about her husband, their children, and her experience as the survivor of childhood sexual assault by her father, brother and others.

Dingle writes that she struggles with as yet unexplained health issues.

She describes herself as a disabled activist, and has identified both as an anti-abortion Christian conservative and, in a Wall Street Journal article, as someone who planned to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016 in part because of then-candidate Donald Trump’s comments about sexual assault. Four of the Dingle children are adopted from outside the country, and Dingle has been outspoken about discrimination they have faced.

In writing about her relationship with her husband, Shannon Dingle said, “I don’t talk about my love story with Lee often, because I like to play a cynic but can’t keep that up as I acknowledge how much of a fairy tale I entered when I met him. He isn’t perfect. I’m not perfect. Life isn’t perfect.”

Lee Dingle was a 2004 graduate of N.C. State University who went to work right out of school for Atlas Engineering of Raleigh. Chris Coutu, chief engineer and vice president of the company, said Dingle was promoted to president just two weeks before his death.

Atlas specializes in engineering for existing buildings that need updates, modifications or repairs, and Coutu said Dingle was a good engineer and a willing colleague who wanted to learn everything he could from his first day on the job.

Around the office, Coutu said, Dingle was known for “his willingness to tackle any kind of job. If he didn’t know something, he would learn how to do and stick with it and get it done,” Coutu said.

Coutu said Lee Dingle loved his kids and enjoyed every minute he had with them.

“He was very good at dealing with people. His clients liked him, and of course we loved him. He was a very competent person,” Coutu said.

Coutu said Dingle was one of several people in the company — and one of about 15 people cross the state — trained as a volunteer search-and-rescue engineer for the N.C. Division of Emergency Management. Most recently, Coutu said, Dingle was called out to help at the site of the natural gas explosion in downtown Durham in April that killed two people and injured 16 others.

Engineers are needed in such situations, where buildings are compromised, to help first responders know how to safely search for and recover victims.

“He was a good, good man,” Coutu said. “He’s going to be terribly missed.”

Shannon Dingle announced on social media that a service for her husband is planned for 2 p.m. Saturday, July 27, at Raleigh’s Edenton Street United Methodist Church, where the family attends.

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Martha Quillin is a general assignment reporter at The News & Observer who writes about North Carolina culture, religion and social issues. She has held jobs throughout the newsroom since 1987.