Former U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama, are grieving the loss of a cherished member of their staff, Tafari Campbell. Campbell, who served as a sous chef in the White House before becoming the Obamas’ personal chef, tragically lost his life in a paddle boarding accident near the Obamas’ property in Martha’s Vineyard. The 45-year-old Virginia native was recovered from a pond on Edgartown Great Road by Massachusetts State Police divers.
The Massachusetts State Police confirmed Campbell’s death, stating that he was found approximately 100 feet from the shore at a depth of about eight feet. The recovery was made possible by deploying side-scan sonar from a boat by Massachusetts Environmental Police Officers. The police clarified that Campbell was visiting Martha’s Vineyard at the time of his passing and that the Obamas were not present at their residence during the incident.
The search for Campbell began on Sunday evening when local police and fire agencies responded to a 911 call reporting a male paddle boarder who had fallen into the water, struggled briefly to stay afloat, and then submerged without resurfacing.
The Obamas expressed their deep sorrow over Campbell’s passing, describing him as a beloved part of their family. They recalled their first encounter with him as a talented sous chef at the White House, praising his creativity, passion for food, and belief in its power to unite people. They remembered him as a warm, fun, and extraordinarily kind individual who brightened their lives.
The Obamas further shared that they had asked Campbell to stay with them after their White House tenure, to which he graciously agreed. They expressed their heartbreak over his untimely death and extended their condolences to his wife Sherise and their twin boys, Xavier and Savin.
The investigation into the circumstances surrounding Campbell’s death is ongoing, led by the State Police Detective Unit for the Cape and Islands District and Edgartown Police.