Tafari Campbell, the Obamas’ personal chef, dies in drowning off Martha’s Vineyard
Known as one of the chefs who brewed White House beer during the Obama Administration, Campbell continued to work for the first couple after they left office.
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Former White House sous chef Tafari Campbell, who worked for former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle died in a drowning Monday in the waters near their Martha’s Vineyard home, Massachusetts police said.
Known as one of the chefs who brewed White House honey ale beer during Obama's time in office — using honey from Michelle Obama’s famous South Lawn garden — was invited to continue working for the former first couple when they left the White House. The Obamas were not at the residence at the time of the death.
“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,” the Obamas said in a statement released Monday. “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.”
According to Massachusetts State Police, Campbell was from Dumfries, Virginia and “was visiting Martha’s Vineyard at the time of his passing. President and Mrs. Obama were not present at the residence at the time of the accident.”
Authorities began searching the waters near the former President's home after receiving reports of a missing paddle boarder on Sunday. He was found shortly after 10 a.m. and recovered from the Edgartown Great Pond by Massachusetts State Police divers.
Martha’s Vineyard police and fire agencies responded to a call for “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. ... Another paddle boarder was on the pond with him at the time and observed him go under the water.”
The divers made the recovery after being located by Massachusetts Environmental Police Officers “deploying side-scan sonar from a boat.” He was found “approximately 100 feet from shore at a depth of about eight feet.”
The investigation is being conducted by the State Police Detective Unit for the Cape and Islands District and Edgartown Police.
In a statement, the state police said those agencies included “Edgartown Fire and all other island fire departments; local police; State Police patrols, Air Wing, and detectives, the Dukes County Sheriff’s Department, and the Coast Guard.”
Campbell is survived by his wife Sherise and their twin boys, Xavier and Savin.