"Lee was playing on the beach with three of our kids yesterday, and an intense wave hit him just right to slam his head into the sand and break his neck," she said.
After breaking his neck, the 37-year-old's throat swelled, depriving his brain of oxygen.
"Some heroes -- including our kids -- tried to save him, but it wouldn’t have mattered what they did," Shannon Dingle said. "His body couldn’t recover from the initial injury."
April Schweitzer, a friend of the Dingles, told WRAL-TV the powerful wave and injury left him in a situation that was "totally unexpected."
“There was just too much swelling to do anything for him,” she told WRAL.
Dingle was the president of Atlas Engineering in Raleigh and had worked for the company for 15 years. The engineering firm promoted Dingle to partner just three weeks ago, ABC11 reported.
"With a focus on personal interaction with clients to ensure the highest level of quality, Lee has extensive experience with the analysis of existing structures, repair design, upgrade/reinforcement details, platforms, cranes/hoists, materials handling systems, and concrete repairs," according to a bio on the company's website. "Lee’s private sector clients include manufacturing, research, and pharmaceutical companies."
Sharon Dingle shared on Twitter the couple met when she was 18 and Lee was 19 and have been together ever since.
"I wasn’t supposed to be saying goodbye at 37," she said. "I don’t know how to be a grown up without him, but I’ll learn. I just wish I didn’t have to."
The 37-year-old is survived by his wife and six children by birth and adoption. Schweitzer described him as a model father to ABC 11.
"How he saw each child for who they were uniquely and just supported them in that, encouraged them and was just always there for them," Schweitzer told the television station. "I feel like anyone who knew him was a better person from their interactions with him."
A GoFundMe page soliciting money for the family had raised more than $92,000 as of 10 a.m. on Sunday.
"I’m overwhelmed by all the love as I figure out life without my love after a freak accident," Shannon Dingle said. "Some friends just created this, and I am so grateful."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Ocean Service warns of the dangers of shore breaks, an ocean condition when waves break directly on the shore. Waves that are small and high can be "unpredictable and dangerous," and typically form where this is a rapid transition from deep to shallow water
"The power of a shore break can cause injuries to extremities and the cervical spine. Spinal cord injuries most often occur when diving headfirst into the water or being tumbled in the waves by the force of the waves," the agency states. "Be sure to ask a lifeguard about the wave conditions before going into the water."