Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama, are mourning the loss of their personal chef Tafari Campbell after he was found dead on Monday, July 24.
“Tafari was a beloved part of our family,” the former president, 61, and the former first lady, 59, told CNN in a joint statement on Monday. “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.”
News broke on Monday that Campbell’s body was discovered by divers near the Obama’s Katama estate in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, after he was reported missing on Sunday, July 23. He was 45.
The search for Campbell began on Sunday evening when police and fire agencies responded to a 911 call at 7: 46 p.m. ET stating that “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.”
Massachusetts Environmental Police officers recovered Campbell’s body shortly before 10 a.m. ET on Monday, according to a press release. Using side-scan sonar from a boat, the department located the late chef “approximately 100 feet from shore at a depth of about eight feet.”
The Obamas were “not present at the residence at the time of the accident,” per the police report. However, the family was quick to sing Campbell’s praises via their statement on Monday.
Campbell first crossed paths with the couple while serving as a sous chef at the White House during Barack’s presidency. He was later hired by the Obamas to stay on as their personal chef after Barack left office. (Barack served as the 44th president of the United States from 2009 to 2017.)
“He’s been part of our lives ever since, and our hearts are broken that he’s gone,” Barack and Michelle told CNN on Monday. “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 State Police Detective Unit for the Cape and Islands District and Edgartown Police are currently investigating Campbell’s death.