Obama’s chef drowns paddleboarding near former president’s Edgartown vacation home

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Former President Barack Obama and his family are mourning the death of their personal chef who drowned while paddleboarding Sunday on Edgartown Great Pond on Martha's Vineyard.

The body of Tafari Campbell, 45, of Dumfries, Virginia, was recovered Monday just before 10 a.m., police officials said. His body was found in eight feet of water, about 100 feet from shore. The body was found by Massachusetts Environmental Police officers using side-scan sonar from a boat.

Massachusetts State Police officials said Monday that Campbell was not wearing a lifejacket when he fell off the paddleboard. Campbell was visiting Martha’s Vineyard where the Obamas have a vacation home. The Obamas were not on the island.

FILE - White House Chef Tafari Campbell smiles Nov. 6, 2008, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C. Campbell, an employee of former President Barack Obama, has drowned near the couple’s home on Martha’s Vineyard. Massachusetts State Police confirmed that the paddleboarder whose body was recovered from Edgartown Great Pond on Monday, July 24, 2023 was Tafari Campbell, of Dumfries, Virginia.

Campbell was the Obama family's personal chef, according to a statement by the former president and his wife Michelle Obama. In the statement, according to the Associated Press, the Obamas called Campbell a "beloved part of our family."

Emergency responders on Sunday went to Turkeyland Cove on the pond, near the Obama vacation home after receiving reports of a possible drowning.

In a 911 call around 7:46 p.m. another paddleboarder reported that Campbell had not resurfaced, according to police.

According to police call logs, the call came in from Wilson’s Landing, a public launch point across the cove from the Obama residence. Wilson’s Landing is also where Edgartown police and Massachusetts State Police based their search from on Monday.

The $12 million property purchased for Obama on Martha's Vineyard in 2019 is on Turkeyland Cove Road, a few hundred yards from Wilson's Landing. It was purchased by a trust listing James F. Reynolds, a longtime friend of the Obamas, as trustee, according to the Town Assessor's database.

Wilson's Landing was again open to the public by 11:53 a.m., Edgarton police announced Monday.

The Obamas said in a statement Monday evening that Campbell was a talented sous chef at the White House and that they came to know him as an "extraordinarily kind person," according to the Associated Press.

“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 Obamas added that Campbell is survived by his wife and their twin sons.

The death is being investigated by the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s Office and Edgartown police. The district attorney's office, Edgartown police and Dukes County Sheriff's Office all directed further questions to Massachusetts State Police, who did not return multiple calls and emails regarding the incident.

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This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Tafari Campbell, chef for former President Obama, drowned in Edgartown