RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The community is mourning the loss of a Raleigh father of six who died while swimming with his kids in the ocean.

“We’re not supposed to lose people like that,” said Tom Caldwell, senior partner at Atlas Engineering.

The heartbreak at Atlas Engineering was palpable as a memorial stands in front of Lee Dingle’s office. The 37-year-old was made the president of the company just two weeks ago.

“He was the very best person for the job, so it’s a terrible blow to us, but it’s an inconceivable blow to his family,” said Caldwell.

Dingle died Friday after a freak accident in Oak Island while on vacation with his family.

His loved ones said a wave slammed him into the beach and broke his neck, depriving his brain of oxygen. His kids and other bystanders tried to save him, but nothing could be done.

“It’s like the ground going out from under your feet. It’s something you never expect to happen,” Caldwell said.

Dingle leaves behind a wife and six children. Four of his children were adopted, including one with special needs.

“He really dug messing around with his kids,” Caldwell said.

Along with his devotion to them, Dingle was specially trained to respond to explosions and collapses with first responders. He’d go in with them to help keep them safe while saving others inside. The last one he was called to was the Durham explosion.

“Hemingway called it grace under pressure — that was Lee,” Caldwell said.

After his passing, Dingle’s wife wrote: “If you didn’t know him, I’m sorry. You missed out. As you hear people share stories, you’ll think, “no person can be that wonderful,” but? He really and truly was.”

Caldwell agrees.

“This type doesn’t come along very often and he was just a remarkable man, one of the finest I’ve ever known,” he said.

A GoFundMe for the family has reached about $180,000.

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