Police revealed on Monday that an Obama family personal chef drowned while paddleboarding on Martha’s Vineyard.

Tafari Campbell, 45, of Dumfries, Va., was discovered dead following a two-day search in Edgartown Great Pond, near the Obamas’ home. The former president and first lady were not there at the time of the drowning, according to Massachusetts State Police.

This Summer, you may save a child from drowning. Campbell was a White House sous chef during Barack Obama’s presidency until leaving in 2016 to work for the former president and his wife.

The Obamas’ office did not respond immediately to NPR’s request for comment, but in a joint statement released with multiple news agencies, including the Associated Press, the couple described Campbell as a “beloved part of our family.”

“When we first met him, he was a talented White House sous chef – creative and passionate about food, and its ability to bring people together,” the Obamas wrote. “In the years that followed, we got to know him as a warm, fun, and extraordinarily kind person who made all of our lives a little brighter.”

“That’s why, as we prepared to leave the White House, we asked Tafari to accompany us, and he graciously agreed.” He’s been a part of our life since then, and we’re heartbroken that he’s gone.”

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According to a police statement, the search for Campbell began on Sunday after a fellow paddleboarder saw him plunge into the water, emerge momentarily, trying to stay on the top, and then disappear completely.

Overnight, a recovery attempt involving helicopters, boats, divers, and investigators was temporarily halted. A boat using side-scanning sonar discovered Campbell’s body just before 10 a.m. local time Monday, around 100 feet from shore.

According to the Obamas, the chef leaves behind his wife and twin sons.

Edgartown and Massachusetts police will investigate his death.


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