Former White House Sous Chef Tafari Campbell, who worked for Barack and Michelle Obama, has drowned while visiting the former president’s home on Martha’s Vineyard in Maryland, officials say. He was 45.
The incident happened at around 7:46 p.m. on Sunday, when someone called 911 from Obama’s vacation home on Martha’ Vineyard, reporting that a paddle boarder had failed to resurface after going into Edgartown Great Pond.
“[He] appeared to briefly struggle to stay on the surface and then submerged and did not resurface,” Massachusetts State Police said in a statement. “Another paddle boarder was on the pond with him at the time and observed him go under the water.”
Numerous emergency services responded to the scene and searched the pond for hours, without any result. On Monday morning, just before 10 a.m., Campbell’s body was found with side-scan sonar from a boat and recovered by divers.
“The recovery was made approximately 100 feet from shore at a depth of about eight feet,” police said. They later identified the victim as Tafari Campbell, who lived in Dumfries, Virginia.
“Mr. Campbell was employed by former President Obama and was visiting Martha’s Vineyard at the time of his passing,” police said in a statement. “President and Mrs. Obama were not present at the residence at the time of the accident.”
The Obamas, in a written statement, said Campbell was a “beloved part of our family.”
“When we first met him, he was a talented sous chef at the White House,” the Obamas said. “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 couple added: “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.”
Campbell was married to his wife, Sherise, and had two twin boys, Xavier and Savin.