Drowning death of former President Obama’s personal chef Tafari Campbell on Martha’s Vineyard ruled an accident

National News

Campbell, 45, of Dumfries, Virginia drowned while using a paddleboard in Edgartown Great Pond on July 24, police said.

Tafari Campbell, then a White House sous chef, is seen in a screen shot from a video posted online by the Obama administration in 2012.
Tafari Campbell, then a White House sous chef, is seen in a screen shot from a video posted online by the Obama administration in 2012. White House (handout)

EDGARTOWN, Mass. (AP) — The drowning death of former President Barack Obama’s personal chef near the family’s home on Martha’s Vineyard last month has been ruled an accident by the Massachusetts medical examiner.

Tafari Campbell, 45, of Dumfries, Virginia drowned while using a paddleboard in Edgartown Great Pond on July 24, the Massachusetts State Police said.

Campbell was employed by the Obamas and was visiting Martha’s Vineyard. The Obamas were not present at the home at the time of the accident.

Campbell’s death was determined to be an accidental drowning following “submersion in a body of water,” Timothy McGuirk, a spokesperson for the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, said Wednesday.

In a statement following his drowning, the former president and his wife, Michelle Obama, called Campbell 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,” the couple said. “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.”

A fellow paddleboarder reported that Campbell had struggled on the surface, went under and didn’t resurface.

State police said they used sonar from a boat to locate Campbell’s body about 100 feet (30 meters) from shore at a depth of about 8 feet (2.4 meters). Campbell was not wearing a life jacket, police said.

The Obamas said Campbell is survived by his wife and their twin boys.

Campbell’s death sparked a frenzy of false claims on social media, as users shared conspiracy theories and baseless speculation about what happened.


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