Authorities recovered the body of former President Barack Obama’s personal chef on Monday after he drowned near the family’s estate on Martha’s Vineyard.
Massachusetts State Police received reports of a missing paddleboarder on Sunday. Another paddleboarder reported seeing the missing paddleboarder struggling on the surface of the water before finally going under.
Police responded to the scene and began searching for the missing paddleboarder. Authorities paused the search late Sunday due to the loss of daylight. The missing paddleboarder’s body was recovered on Monday with the aid of sonar from a boat.
🚨 BREAKING: The man who drowned near Barack Obama’s mansion on Martha’s Vineyard has been identified as Tafari Campbell, who worked as White House Sous Chef during the Obama administration
— Benny Johnson (@bennyjohnson) July 24, 2023
Police identified the victim as 45-year-old Tafari Campbell from Dumfries, Virginia. Campbell had been visiting the Obamas’ home when he drowned. His body was located 100 feet (30 meters) from shore at a depth of about 8 feet.
🔥🚨BREAKING NEWS: Obama's personal chef, Tafari Campbell has been identified as the black male paddleboarder found dead after drowning near the former president's Martha’s Vineyard home. pic.twitter.com/bomMYNQvh6
— Dom Lucre | Breaker of Narratives (@dom_lucre) July 24, 2023
The Obamas, who were not home at the time of the incident, described Campbell as a “beloved part” of their family.
“When we first met him, he was a talented sous chef at the White House – creative and passionate about food, and its ability to bring people together,” the Obamas said in a statement. “In the years that followed, we got to know him as a warm, fun, extraordinarily kind person who made all of our lives a little brighter.”
The former President and his wife added that Campbell, at their request, agreed to stay with them after they left the White House.
“He’s been part of our lives ever since, and our hearts are broken that he’s gone,” the Obamas said.
State police troopers, alongside the Islands District Attorney’s Office and Edgartown police, are investigating Campbell’s death.
Edgartown fire chief Alex Schaeffer told the Vineyard Gazette that Island police and fire officials conducted door-to-door searches while searching for Campbell.
“We are deeply saddened by the outcome of this event, but grateful for the massive effort that was supported by our local fire rescue members,” Schaeffer said.
According to the Obamas, Campbell is survived by his wife and their twin boys.