Accidental drowning confirmed as what killed former White House Chef, Tafari Campbell

Former President Barack Obama (left) and chef Tafari Campbell. Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty, The White House/YouTube

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Massachusetts has concluded that the manner of death for former White House sous chef Tafari Campbell was an accidental drowning resulting from being submerged in a body of water.

According to Timothy McGuirk, a representative from the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, Massachusetts does not make autopsy findings public. Nevertheless, the chief medical examiner determined that Campbell’s demise was accidental.

The Massachusetts State Police’s preliminary inquiry yielded no indications of foul play in the death of 45-year-old Campbell, as reported by The Boston Herald. The investigators did not uncover any signs of external harm or injuries on the body, according to the same source.

Campbell, a 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 near the Obamas’ Katama estate in Martha’s Vineyard on July 23.

The chef, who was from Dumfries, Virginia, lost his balance while standing on a paddle board and fell into the water, another paddle boarder on the pond told police, reports the Herald. The other paddle boarder attempted to swim to Campbell, but could not reach him in time, per the Herald.

Campbell’s body was recovered by divers from a pond on Edgartown Great Road shortly before 10 a.m. ET on July 24, Massachusetts State Police had 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 shared a 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 said in a joint statement sent 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.

In an Instagram post shared on July 24, 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.”


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