Dramatic 911 call captures moments after Obama’s personal chef drowned

911 call reveals how Secret Service agents tried to Tafari Campbell in the water off Obama’s Martha’s Vineyard estate

Holly Hales
Wednesday 25 October 2023 13:52 BST
911 dispatch audio captures Obama chef's death

A dramatic 911 call has captured the moments staff scrambled to save the life of Barack Obama’s personal chef before he drowned in the waters off the former president’s Martha’s Vineyard estate.

Tafari Campbell, 45, died back on July 23 when he fell off a paddleboard into the Edgartown Great Pond.

His body was recovered from the water the next morning.

Now, three months on, the 911 call has revealed how Secret Service agents tried to find him in the water that night – but to no avail.

In the audio, a Secret Service agent named Dave is heard telling a dispatcher that a man was “drowning” out the back of the home.

“We have a male drowning in the back of the property now,” he says in the audio, obtained by DailyMail.com.

“We have our rescue swimmers. They’re attempting to go out there right now.”

He tells the dispatcher that a “house guest” fell in the water, prompting frantic rescue efforts from staff.

Michelle and Barack Obama, with their personal chef Tafari Campbell, who died in a paddleboarding accident off Martha’s Vineyard

“Someone came running up to our back post, saying a gentleman, it’s just a guest of the house, is out there drowning,” Dave says.

When asked what emergency services are needed to aid in the rescue, Dave says he is unsure as “they’re not passing information over the radio right now”.

“They didn’t advise right now. I would say at least an ambulance,” he says.

When Dave calls the dispatchers back a few minutes later, it appears the situation has become more dire.

“So our rescue swimmers aren’t able to locate the gentleman that was reported drowning,” Dave says.

“They’re out in the water right now but as of now they don’t know where he is.”

The former president is believed to have arrived on the scene minutes after the 911 calls were made.

Sonar technology was used to Campbell’s body the next morning about 100 feet from the shore and eight feet underwater in the pond, a large coastal pool connected to the Atlantic.

Sherise Campbell posted tribute to husband Tafari

The chef had served the 44th US president during his tenure at the White House, going on to accept an invitation to stay on with the family as their personal chef at the end of Mr Obama’s second term.

“Tafari was a beloved part of our family,” the Obamas said in a statement following his death.

“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.

“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.

“Today we join everyone who knew and loved Tafari – especially his wife Sherise and their twin boys, Xavier and Savin – in grieving the loss of a truly wonderful man.”

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