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Obama family's chef dies paddle boarding near former president’s Martha’s Vineyard home

The Obamas called Tafari Campbell, 45, “a beloved part of our family.” He was a sous chef at the White House and then stayed on with the family.
/ Source: NBC News

An employee of former President Barack Obama died while paddle boarding near the family’s Martha’s Vineyard residence, state police and the Obamas said Monday.

Tafari Campbell, 45, went missing around 7:45 p.m. Sunday on Edgartown Great Pond, Massachusetts State Police said.

Divers recovered his body in about 8 feet of water around 100 feet from shore just before 10 a.m. Monday, state police said.

The former president and his wife Michelle Obama said Campbell “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,” they said in a statement 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.”

When the family left the White House, they asked Campbell to stay with them, and he agreed, the Obamas said.

“He’s been part of our lives ever since, and our hearts are broken that he’s gone,” they said in the statement. “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.”

The Obamas were not at the Martha’s Vineyard residence when the accident occurred, state police said.

Campbell, of Dumfries, Virginia, was visiting Martha’s Vineyard, police said.

Police were called after someone reported that a paddle boarder had gone into the water, struggled at the surface, went under and failed to resurface, police said.

Another paddle boarder saw him go under, police said.

Authorities found Campbell’s body with side-scan sonar, according to the agency.

Edgartown Great Pond is on the southeastern coast of Martha’s Vineyard.