Obama Chef Tafari Campbell Died Paddleboarding Near Martha's Vineyard

News recently broke that Tafari Campbell, a chef who worked for the Obamas, had died, and many want to know what his cause of death was.


Jul. 25 2023, Published 10:05 a.m. ET

The Obamas recently posted an announcement that their chef, Tafari Campbell, had died. Following the news of his death, many wanted to learn more about Tafari and how he ended up working for the Obamas. They were also curious about the nature of Tafari's death, and how it came about.

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Police had been searching for a missing paddleboarder near the Obama mansion on Martha's Vineyard since July 23, 2023. On July 24, they confirmed that the body they had found in the water was Tafari's. So, what was his cause of death? Here's what we know.

What was Tafari Campbell's cause of death?

Massachusetts police confirmed that Tafari had died on the evening of July 23 while paddleboarding around Edgartown Great Pond, a large pool that connects to the Atlantic Ocean.

Although no official cause of death has been announced, reports suggest that police were originally called to the Obama residence after hearing reports of a drowning man near the property.

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A witness who was paddleboarding with Tafari said that he had gone underwater after struggling to stay on the surface and never come back up. Flight crews, dive teams, and boat crews with air support from the US Coast Guard all joined in the search, and Tafari's hat and paddleboard were found later that day. The police said that they located the body at around 10 a.m. on July 24.

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“The recovery was made approximately 100 feet from shore at a depth of about eight feet,” the state police said. “The investigation into the fatality is being conducted by the State Police Detective Unit for the Cape and Islands District and Edgartown Police.”

While the cause of death hasn't been confirmed, Tafari likely drowned. Neither one of the Obamas was home at the time of the incident.

Who was Tafari Campbell?

Tafari was the White House chef for the Obamas from 2008 to 2016, and left the White House to work for the Obamas when they left. He had appeared in photos with the president, and was also in a YouTube video posted by the Obamas. Following the news of his death, the family released a statement describing what Tafari meant to them.

“Tafari was a beloved part of our family," the statement said.

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“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 statement continued. "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."

Tafari was married to his wife Sherise, who runs a baking and catering company. The two were first married in 1999. Tafari was also an athlete and frequently posted images of him cycling or lifting weights.

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