Former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama, are mourning the tragic death of their personal chef, Tafari Campbell, who died following a paddleboarding accident that took place near their Martha’s Vineyard property. 

“Tafari was a beloved part of our family,” Barack, 61, and Michelle, said in a statement on Tuesday, July 25. “Our hearts are broken that he’s gone. 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.”

In their statement, the Obamas recalled first meeting Tafari, who was 43 years old at the time of his untimely death: “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.” 

One day prior, the Massachusetts State Police issued a statement via its website, revealing that authorities were searching for a “missing paddleboarder.” However, they did not reveal Campbell’s name at the time. 

“At 7:46 p.m., Martha’s Vineyard police and fire agencies responded to Great Pond in the vicinity of Turkeyland Cove for a call for a male paddle boarder who had gone into the water, appeared to briefly struggle to stay on the surface, and then submerged and did not resurface,” the message read, adding that “another paddleboarder was on the pond with him at the time and observed him go under the water.” 

Hours later, police confirmed that they had recovered the body at 10 a.m. local time. 

“Shortly before 10 a.m., the body of the missing paddleboarder was recovered from Edgartown Great Pond by Massachusetts State Police divers,” police said in a separate statement on its website. “MSP Underwater Recovery Unit divers made the recovery after the victim’s body was located by a Massachusetts Environmental Police Officers deploying side-scan sonar from a boat. … The investigation into the fatality is being conducted by the State Police Detective Unit for the Cape and Islands District and Edgartown Police.” 

Campbell’s unverified Instagram account noted that he was a “personal chef and amateur golfer.” The account features various dishes he crafted throughout his career.

Per The Washington Post, Campbell was one of the chefs who brewed honey ale beer at the White House during Obama’s presidential term. In 2012, the White House released a video that featured Campbell and another chef explaining the process behind making beer. 

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