The Obama family’s personal chef died over the weekend after he was found struggling in the water while paddling near the former first family’s home on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts State Police said Monday.
The body of Dafari Campbell, 45, of Dumfries, Va., was found by Massachusetts Environmental Police about 100 feet from shore in Edgartown Great Pond just before 10 a.m. Monday in about 8 feet of water. It sent sonar from a boat during an hour-long search that began Sunday night and involved several law enforcement agencies.
Former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama were not home at the time of the crash, state police said. Mr. Obama, who worked as a sous chef when they were in the White House and later stayed with them. Campbell’s death is being investigated by state police and the Edgartown Police Department.
Just before 8pm on Sunday, emergency services from Edgartown responded to the Edgartown Great Pond near Turkeyland Cove, where Mr. Obama’s summer home, “a male paddler who went into the water, appeared to struggle briefly to stay on the surface, then drowned and never resurfaced,” state police said in a statement.
Another paddler was in the pool with him at the time when he saw him go under the water, police said. State police, the U.S. Coast Guard and several local fire departments, including divers, assisted in the search.
After several hours of searching Sunday night, “the operation was suspended to allow dive teams, air crews and other responders to reorganize and assess next steps,” state police said.
Chief Alex Schaefer of the Edgartown Fire Department told The Vineyard Gazette Mr. After Campbell was reported missing, island police officers and firefighters conducted door-to-door searches, and firefighters searched the lake’s shoreline on foot.
In a statement, Mr. and Mrs.
“When we first met him, he was an accomplished sous chef at the White House — creative and passionate about food, and able to bring people together,” they said. “In the years that followed, we got to know him as a warm, funny, extraordinarily loving person who brightened our lives a little.”
As the Obamas prepared to leave the White House, they said they asked Mr. Campbell to stay with them.
“He has been a part of our lives ever since,” they said. “We are heartbroken that he is gone.”
According to their statement, Mr. Campbell’s survivors include his wife, Sherise, and twin boys, Xavier and Savin.
The Obamas, longtime summer visitors to Martha’s Vineyard, He bought a secluded 30 acre property $11.75 million in South Shore in 2019. Their seven-bedroom, 6,900-square-foot home fronts Edgartown’s Great Pool with views of a barrier beach and ocean. The calm, saltwater, coastal lagoon has several inlets popular with recreational boaters, especially kayakers and paddleboarders hoping to catch a spectacular sunset.
The National Weather Service reported fair and clear conditions Sunday night, with a high temperature in the 70s.
Mr. Obama has visited the vineyard since his days as an Illinois senator, and has spent part of each August on the island in seven of his eight years in office, skipping 2012 during his re-election campaign.
This is not the first time that a former US President’s chef has died suddenly. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Walter Scheib, a former executive chef during the Bush administration, died in an accidental drowning in 2015. Going on a hike In Taos, NM