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Barack Obama’s Personal Chef Tafari Campbell Dead After Paddle Boarding Accident

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Tafari Campbell
Photo: The White House /Youtube

Tafari Campbell, who started as sous chef for the White House and later became the Obamas’ personal chef  died in a paddle boarding accident Monday. The accident occurred near the Obamas’ Katama estate in Martha’s Vineyard. He was 45 years old.

In a news release, Massachusetts State Police said that divers from Dumfries, Virginia, recovered Campbell from a pond on Edgartown Great Road a short time before 10 a.m. ET.

“MSP Underwater Recovery Unit divers made the recovery after the victim’s body was located by Massachusetts Environmental Police Officers deploying side-scan sonar from a boat,” the department said in the release, noting the recovery was made “approximately 100 feet from shore at a depth of about eight feet.”

According to MSP, “Mr. Campbell was visiting Martha’s Vineyard at the time of his passing. President and Mrs. Obama were not present at the residence at the time of the accident.”

The search started at 7:46 p.m. ET

 On Sunday at 7:46 pm Martha’s Vineyard police and fire agencies responded to a 911 call for “a male paddle boarder who had gone into the water, appeared to briefly struggle to stay on the surface, and then submerged and did not resurface.”

The Obamas shared a heartfelt message about Tafari:

“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 a joint statement sent to PEOPLE. “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.”

Their statement went on to say, “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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