Barack Obama’s beloved chef Tafari Campbell’s death ruled an accident by medical examiner
Former White House sous chef Tafari Campbell's death ruled an accident after drowning near Mar-a-Lago estate.
The death of former White House sous chef Tafari Campbell, who drowned in a pond near former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in July, has been ruled an accident by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Massachusetts.
The cause of death was “submersion in a body of water,” according to Timothy McGuirk, a spokesman for the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, who told The Washington Post that Massachusetts does not release autopsy results publicly.
The chief medical examiner determined that Campbell’s death was accidental, The Boston Herald reports.
Campbell, a 45-year-old father of two who was a personal chef to former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama, died in a paddle-boarding accident on July 23. He was visiting the Obamas’ Katama estate in Martha’s Vineyard.
According to the Herald, another paddle boarder on the pond told police that Campbell lost his balance while standing on a paddle board and fell into the water. The other paddle-boarder tried to swim to Campbell, but could not reach him in time.
Campbell’s body was found by divers from a pond on Edgartown Great Road shortly before 10 a.m. ET on July 24, Massachusetts State Police said in a news release.
“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.”
MSP later told PEOPLE in a statement, “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 Obamas paid tribute to Campbell, who they called “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 Obamas quoted in a joint statement 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.”
The statement continued, “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,” they added.
On July 24, in an Instagram post shared, his wife Sherise wrote, “My heart is broken. My life and our family’s life is forever changed. Please pray for me and our families as I deal with the loss of my husband.”
In another post, Sherise, who owns a baking and catering company called Sweet Sage, said her company was putting orders on hold due to “the recent tragedy in our family.”