The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Massachusetts ruled this week that the drowning death of the Obama family’s personal chef was an accident.
Tafari Campbell, 45, worked as a sous chef for Barack and Michelle Obama and was visiting Martha’s Vineyard from Dumfries, Virginia, at the time of his passing, authorities said.
Timothy McGuirk, a spokesman for the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, told The Washington Post that the chief medical examiner ruled Campbell’s death an accident on Tuesday. He added that the office does not release autopsy reports to the public.
Campbell allegedly was “standing on his paddleboard when he lost his balance and fell off” into the Edgartown Great Pond, the Boston Globe reported at the time of the incident in late July. “He struggled to remain afloat before slipping beneath the water. Campbell was not wearing a life jacket and wasn’t secured to his board. Campbell’s body was found in about 8 feet of water.”
Police said at the time, “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. … Another paddle boarder was on the pond with him at the time and observed him go under the water.”
After several state and local emergency personnel, including the U.S. Coast Guard, arrived on the scene, Massachusetts State Police divers recovered Campbell’s body approximately 100 feet from the shore shortly before 10 a.m. Authorities said they located Campbell’s body using a boat with an attached side-scan sonar system and aerial support from MSP and U.S. Coast Guard helicopter crews.
“President and Mrs. Obama were not present at the residence at the time of the accident,” Massachusetts State Police said.
The Obama family said they are “grieving the loss of a truly wonderful man.”
“Tafari was a beloved part of our family,” the family said. “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. He’s been part of our lives ever since, and our hearts are broken that he’s gone,” the statement continued. “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.”
Brandon Drey contributed to this report.