Personal Chef to the Obamas Tragically Drowns in Edgartown Great Pond

 July 27, 2023

The body of a 45-year-old man who went missing during a paddleboarding excursion has been discovered in Edgartown Great Pond, Massachusetts.

The man was identified as Tafari Campbell, a resident of Virginia. Campbell was more than just a citizen; he was a husband and father of two, who also happened to be the personal chef of the illustrious Obama family.

Campbell was discovered approximately 100 feet from the shoreline in an area of water eight feet deep, not far from the Katama home of the Obamas. This grim discovery, a short distance from the familiar retreat of the former President and First Lady, came as a deep blow to many. You can read more about this tragic incident at the Martha's Vineyard Times.

Expressions of Sorrow From The Obamas

On Monday, Barack and Michelle Obama issued a statement expressing their sorrow over Campbell's passing. The Obamas reminisced about the joyful presence Campbell brought to their family unit. They initially met him during their time at the White House, where he worked as a sous chef.

Barack and Michelle Obama stated:

“Tafari was a beloved part of our 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. 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 further elaborated on their relationship with Campbell after leaving the White House. They had asked him to continue being a part of their lives, to which he kindly agreed.

Remembering Tafari Campbell: A Personal Loss

The Obamas expressed their grief and disbelief over his sudden passing,

“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 joined Campbell's wife Sherise, their twin boys Xavier and Savin, and all who knew and loved Campbell, in grieving the loss of a truly wonderful man.

Details Surrounding The Tragic Incident

The unfortunate incident occurred while Campbell was visiting the Island. At the time of the incident, the Obamas were not present at their residence.

The alarm was raised on Sunday evening when Campbell went missing while paddleboarding on Edgartown Great Pond. The incident led to a swift response from multiple agencies including local emergency services, the state police, and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Officers had been dispatched to the Obama’s Katama residence around 7:45 pm on Sunday following a report of a "possible drowning." An African American male, later identified as Campbell, had been seen struggling briefly on the surface before submerging.

Search and Rescue Operation

A fellow paddleboarder was the one to notify authorities. According to their account, once submerged, Campbell failed to resurface. He was last seen wearing all black, without a life preserver.

Items belonging to Campbell were recovered the same evening. These included his paddleboard and hat. A larger search and rescue mission was immediately mobilized in response.

The rescue operation involved helicopters, dive teams, and aerial support from Massachusetts State Police. An underwater recovery unit was also deployed with the help from Massachusetts Environmental Police.

Efforts By Multiple Agencies

Various agencies lent their resources to the search mission. Among them were Edgartown Fire, all other Island fire departments, local police, state police, the Dukes County Sheriff’s Department, and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Through the use of side scan sonar from a boat, the deceased was located. The recovery happened shortly before 10 am on Monday, with Campbell's body being retrieved from eight-foot-deep waters approximately 100 feet away from shore.

Currently, an investigation into the fatality is being conducted. The State Police Detective Unit for the Cape and Islands and Edgartown Police are leading the inquiry.

In Summary:

  • Tafari Campbell, a 45-year-old man, was found dead in Edgartown Great Pond.
  • He was a Virginia resident and personal chef to the Obama family.
  • He was found near the Obamas' residence, approximately 100 feet from shore.
  • The Obamas have expressed deep sorrow over Campbell's passing, highlighting his role in their family.
  • Campbell went missing during a paddleboarding activity, leading to a multi-agency search and rescue mission.
  • His body was eventually recovered in eight-foot-deep waters, 100 feet away from the shore.
  • An investigation into the incident is currently ongoing.