Body of missing paddle boarder recovered from Edgartown pond identified as member of Obama staff

Obamas: ‘Tafari was a beloved part of our family.’



Massachusetts State Police divers have recovered the body of a 45 year-old man who had gone missing while paddleboarding in Edgartown Great Pond Sunday. 

The deceased has been identified as Virginia resident Tafari Campbell, husband, father of two, and  personal chef to the Obama family. 

He was found roughly 100 feet from shore in eight-foot-deep waters, near the Katama home of former President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama.

In a statement issued by Barack and Michelle Obama Monday, the former president and first lady expressed grief over the sudden and tragic loss. 

 “Tafari was a beloved part of our family,” they 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.”

“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.”

Campbell had been visiting the Island at the time of his passing. Barack and Michelle Obama were not at the residence at the time of the incident, state police say.

Campbell went missing while paddle boarding Sunday evening on Edgartown Great Pond, prompting a multi-agency response including the U.S. Coast Guard, state police, and local emergency personnel.

Officers had been dispatched to the Obama’s Katama residence on Turkeyland Cove Rd. around 7:45 pm Sunday for a “possible drowning” of an African American male who’d gone missing after going into the water and appearing to briefly struggle to stay on the surface.

Another paddle boarder witnessed the incident and told police that once submerged, Campbell failed to resurface. He was last seen wearing all black without a life preserver. 

Campbell’s paddle board and hat were recovered Sunday evening.

Search and rescue helicopters and dive teams were on site Sunday evening and Monday morning.  Massachusetts State Police provided aerial support, and deployed an underwater recovery unit with assistance from Massachusetts Environmental Police. 

Numerous agencies were assisting in the search, including Edgartown Fire, and all other Island fire departments; local police; state police, the Dukes County Sheriff’s Department, and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Police say the deceased was located using side scan sonar from a boat and was retrieved shortly before 10 am Monday from eight-foot-deep waters approximately 100 feet away from shore.

An investigation into the fatality is being conducted by the State Police Detective Unit for the Cape and Islands and Edgartown Police. 



  1. Didn’t take long for an ignorant comment to appear.
    So predicatble.
    I thought the Times screened comments to prevent this kind of nonsense?

  2. I think you may be referring to Michelle Obama, because her house was used as a staging area ?
    Let me tell you Bobby, Michelle and her husband would do anything the secret service would let them do to help save a life.
    Go over to fox “news” , and the idiots over there are talking about how she or Barack probably pushed the guy off the board to cover up some sort of scandal–
    And that is all being covered up—
    I can’t wait for Tucker Carlson to pick up that theory.
    In the meantime, I offer condolences to the family and friends of this person.
    Whether an islander or not, conservative or liberal, this is tragic, and many people will feel the pain of this tragic death.
    Thanks for putting politicks into it.
    I’m sure the family is as hurt by your comment as the right wing nut cases delight in it.
    Go to Fox.

  3. You could look at this matter from nine different angles, and it would still seem out of order.

  4. Your comment is graceless and despicable .

    Someone has DIED. A member of President Obama’s staff has drowned while paddleboarding in the Edgartown Pond. This is terribly sad news.
    My sorrow for this loss of life and condolences to the grieving family and loved ones, and to the Obama Family and Staff.

  5. Nothing to say, allude to the the Former First Lady being sexually perverted.
    It makes you look so smart.
    When will you weigh in on the sexuality of her daughters, from a Conservative point of view?
    Family values are soooo important.

  6. So sad for Tafari Campbell’s wife, young sons, family, and friends. Such a terrible tragedy.

      • Actually, I didn’t. I pointed out that they’ll be coming. And it sounds like some came and were removed by the editor.

    • The first comment on this article was a predictably idiotic one, and it has since been deleted. They made a reference to Michelle being a man. Now, it says there are eight comments here but only three remain. So it looks like the moderator here approved a few more then changed their mind.
      I expected lots of nonsense related to this as soon as I saw the name Obama in the article

      • We deleted the original comment and the other comments that were in reply to that comment were automatically deleted with it. The post should not have been allowed in the first place and we regret allowing it

        – Editor

  7. Thinking of his family and friends during this time. May his memory be a blessing.
    From friends of friends, he was an amazing man, father, husband and a talented chef.

    Please be respectful on this thread and article.

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