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.