The Obamas paid tribute to their personal chef Tafari Campbell after he drowned in a paddleboarding accident near the former first couple’s Martha’s Vineyard residence. According to The Washington Post, the Massachusetts State Police in a statement said the chef’s body was recovered about 100 feet from shore on Monday morning.
Campbell, 45, worked as a chef in the White House during Obama’s presidency and remained their personal chef at the end of his tenure. The fatal incident occurred at Edgartown Great Pond, a location close to Barack and Michelle Obama’s Martha’s Vineyard estate. Police said Campbell was visiting the island at the time of his death.
“Tafari was a beloved part of our family,” said the Obamas in their statement. “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. 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.”
“That’s why, when we were getting ready to leave the White House, we asked Tafari to stay with us, and he generously agreed. He’s been part of our lives ever since, and our hearts are broken that he’s gone,” the statement added. “Today we join everyone who knew and loved Tafari – especially his wife Sherise and their twin boys, Xavier and Savin – in grieving the loss of a truly wonderful man.”
Authorities said police and fire officials were called to the area on Sunday evening after they were notified about “a male paddle boarder who had gone into the water, appeared to briefly struggle to stay on the surface, and then submerged and did not resurface.”
Though a search effort was subsequently initiated, searchers had to put it on hold later that night after efforts to locate Campbell proved futile. Divers on Monday morning used sonar equipment to locate the 45-year-old’s body, per The Washington Post.
The Obamas occasionally spend the summer at Martha’s Vineyard. Police, however, said the former first couple were not present at their residence at the time their chef drowned.