Cause of death revealed for Obama family chef who died at their Martha’s Vineyard home

Campbell died while paddleboarding last month

Namita Singh
Wednesday 23 August 2023 13:30 BST
Obama Family's Chef Tafari Campbell Found Dead in Martha's Vineyard

The death of former US president Barack Obama‘s personal chef Tafari Campbell in the Massachusetts resort community of Martha’s Vineyard was an accident, a state official said on Tuesday.

Campbell, 45, died while paddleboarding in the waters close to the former president’s home in late July. His body was recovered a day later with the aid of sonar technology about 100 feet from the shore and eight feet underwater in Edgartown Great Pond, a large coastal pool connected to the Atlantic.

Timothy McGuirk, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, told the media that the cause of death was ruled as drowning and the manner of death was determined to be an accident.

Massachusetts Police at the time of the incident said Campbell “was not wearing a personal flotation device and was not leashed to the paddle board” when he fell into the water.

He was with a fellow paddle boarder – who has not been named – who tried to help but could not reach him in time, police said.

“The other paddleboarder then swam to shore and notified a person on shore of what had happened,” police said.

“That person placed a 911 call to the Dukes County Regional Emergency Communications Center, which initiated an immediate emergency search and rescue response by numerous public safety agencies.”

Campbell had been a sous chef at the White House and came to work for the family after Mr Obama completed his second term in 2017, the former president and his wife, Michelle Obama, said last month.

“Tafari was a beloved part of our family,” the Obamas had said in a statement in response to the tragic accident. “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.

Barack Obama paid tribute to his personal chef Tafari Campbell, pictured with his Sharise, who died in a paddleboarding accident off Martha’s Vineyard

“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.”

Campbell had a brief brush with fame in 2012 when he brewed an ale from honey gathered from the beehives Ms Obama had installed on the White House’s South Lawn, which is believed to be the first alcohol ever produced within the grounds of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The chef, who lived in Dumfries, Virginia, leaves behind his wife, Sherise, and twin sons.

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