The paddleboarder who died near the Obamas’ Martha’s Vineyard estate was the former president’s personal chef who was called “part of the family.”
Shortly before 10 a.m. on Monday, the body of the missing paddleboarder was recovered from Edgartown Great Pond by Massachusetts State Police divers.
The 45-year-old man has been identified as Tafari Campbell, of Dumfries, Virginia. He was the Obamas’ personal chef, according to multiple reports.
“Mr. Campbell was employed by former President Obama and was visiting Martha’s Vineyard at the time of his passing,” a State Police spokesperson said in a statement.
“President and Mrs. Obama were not present at the residence at the time of the accident,” the spokesperson added.
Campbell leaves behind a wife and twin boys. The Obamas in a statement called Campbell “a truly wonderful man.”
“Tafari was a beloved part of our family,” Michelle and Barack said in a statement. “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,” the Obamas added. “He’s been part of our lives ever since, and our hearts are broken that he’s gone.”
Massachusetts State Police Underwater Recovery Unit divers made the recovery after Campbell’s body was found by Massachusetts Environmental Police officers who were deploying side-scan sonar from a boat.
His body was located about 100 feet from shore, at a depth of about eight feet.
The investigation into the fatality is being conducted by the State Police Detective Unit for the Cape and Islands District and Edgartown Police.
Police responded to the pond Sunday evening for a call of a male paddleboarder who had gone into the water, appeared to briefly struggle to stay on the surface, and then submerged and did not resurface.
Martha’s Vineyard police and fire agencies responded to Great Pond in the vicinity of Turkeyland Cove.
Another paddleboarder was on the pond with the man at the time, and saw him go underwater, according to police.
After several hours of searching Sunday night, efforts to locate the missing paddleboarder were unsuccessful and the operation was paused to allow dive teams, flight crews, and other responders to re-equip and assess next steps. The search resumed Monday morning.
The search included marine assets, such as divers and boat crews deploying side-scan sonar, and aerial support from Mass State Police and U.S. Coast Guard helicopter crews.