A former White House chef who was working for the Obama family was found dead Monday in a pond on the south shore of Martha’s Vineyard, according to Massachusetts police.
Tafari Campbell, 45, “was employed by former President Obama and was visiting Martha’s Vineyard at the time of his passing,” according to a Monday news release from Massachusetts State Police.
Campbell was reported missing early Sunday evening after going paddleboarding, police said.
He went “into the water, appeared to briefly struggle to stay on the surface, and then submerged and did not resurface,” an earlier state police news release said. Another paddleboarder on the pond with him at the time witnessed him go under the water, according to the release.
Massachusetts Environmental Police officers recovered Campbell’s body shortly before 10 a.m. Monday from Edgartown Great Pond, a police news release said.
Police used a side-scan sonar from a boat to locate him and divers from the department’s underwater recovery unit recovered his body, which was about 100 feet from the shore at a depth of about 8 feet.
In a joint statement emailed to CNN, Barack and Michelle Obama said they had first met Campbell when he worked as a sous chef at the White House. He continued to work for the couple after Obama’s eight-year term.
“Tafari was a beloved part of our family,” said the Obamas in their statement. “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.”
The Obamas were not at the residence at the time of the incident, according to police.
The State Police Detective Unit for the Cape and Islands District and Edgartown Police are investigating Campbell’s death, state police said.
Both agencies referred CNN to the district attorney’s office for comment. The Cape and Islands District Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.