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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Drowning death of Obama family chef is ruled an accident

By Eduardo Medina

The personal chef to the Obama family died of accidental drowning last month in a Martha’s Vineyard lake, the chief medical examiner of Massachusetts has ruled, officials said Tuesday.

The chef, Tafari Campbell, 45, of Dumfries, Virginia, had been visiting the island in late July and was paddleboarding near the former first family’s summer home when he was seen struggling in the water, the Massachusetts State Police said last month.

The chief medical examiner’s office has determined that Campbell’s death on July 23 was an accident, Timothy McGuirk, a spokesperson for the state Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, said Tuesday night. Former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama were not home at the time of the accident, the state police said.

The emergency services in Edgartown had responded to a call of a “male paddleboarder who had gone into the water, appeared to briefly struggle to stay on the surface and then submerged and did not resurface,” the state police said in a statement. Another paddleboarder was on the pond with him at the time and saw him go underwater, police said.

Campbell, whose survivors include his wife, Sherise, and twin boys, Xavier and Savin, had worked as a sous chef when the Obamas were in the White House and stayed on with them afterward.

In a statement at the time, the Obamas called Campbell “a truly wonderful man” and “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,” they said. “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 Obamas said they had asked Campbell to stay on with them as they were getting ready to leave the White House.

“He’s been part of our lives ever since,” they said. “Our hearts are broken that he’s gone.”

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