Missing paddleboarder found dead near Obama mansion named as former president’s personal chef Tafari Campbell

Police were called to the family’s residence in Martha’s Vineyard by reports of a man who went underwater after a ‘brief struggle’

Io Dodds
Wednesday 26 July 2023 16:18 BST
Obama's personal chef brews beer at the White House

A paddleboarder found dead in the water near Barack Obama’s country estate has been identified as the former president’s personal chef.

Massachusetts police on Monday named the deceased man as Tafari Campbell, 45, who had cooked for the Obama family in the White House and continued to work for them after Mr Obama left office.

Emergency services were called to the family’s mansion in Martha’s Vineyard on Sunday evening by reports of a paddleboarder who had gone under the surface after a “brief struggle” to stay afloat.

Campbell’s body was found around 10am on Monday morning using sonar, about 100 feet from the shore and eight feet underwater in a coastal inlet called Edgartown Great Pond.

“Tafari was a beloved part of our family," said the Obama family on Monday evening. "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.”

Police said that Campbell was from Dumfries, Virginia and was visiting Martha’s vineyard when he died. They added that neither Mr Obama nor his wife Michelle were home at the time.

Massachusetts State Police said on Tuesday that an autopsy found no evidence that the death was suspicious and no trauma or injuries were found on Campbell’s body. A paddle-boarder who was at the pond with Campbell when the tragedy unfolded told law enforcement that the late chef was standing on his paddleboard when he lost balance.

“He was not wearing a personal flotation device and was not leashed to the paddleboard. The fellow paddle boarder tried to swim to Mr Campbell’s location but did not reach him in time,” the update read. “The other paddle boarder then swam to shore and notified a person on shore of what had happened.”

The Obamas’ estate in Martha’s Vineyard was bought in 2020 for a $11.75m, following years of annual holidays to the New England island, which has been a popular summar haunt for America’s moneyed elite for more than a century.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in