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The Vineyard Gazette – Martha’s Vineyard News

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The missing paddleboarder who was found dead in Edgartown Great Pond Monday was employed by former President Barack Obama and was on a visit to the Vineyard at the time of his death, according to state police.

Officials identified the 45-year-old man who went missing Sunday as Tafari Campbell, of Dumfries, Va. Mr. Campbell had served as the sous chef at the White House during the Obama presidency.

Shortly before 10 a.m. Monday divers recovered Mr. Campbell’s body about 100 feet from shore in about eight feet of water. He leaves behind a wife Sherise and twin sons, Xavier and Savin.

Tafari Campbell in a White House video from 2012 explaining how he helped brew the White House honey ale.

A search for Mr. Campbell began Sunday night, after he was first reported missing at 7:46 p.m. in the area of Turkeyland Cove in Edgartown.

The Obama family owns a home on the cove. Mr. Obama and his wife Michelle Obama were not at the residence at the time of the accident, state police said.

Mr. and Mrs. Obama expressed their condolences in a statement released Monday evening. Mr. Campbell had been employed by the Obamas since their time in the White House.

“Tafari was 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. 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,” the statement read.

Mr. Campbell went into the water Sunday, struggled briefly to stay on the surface and then submerged, state police said. He did not resurface.

Edgartown police block off the road to Wilson’s Landing Monday.

Ray Ewing

Another paddleboarder was on the pond with him at the time and observed him go under the water, according to police. Environmental police located Mr. Campbell’s body using sonar from a boat, according to state police.

The investigation into the Mr. Campbell’s death is being conducted by state police troopers with the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s Office and Edgartown police.

District Attorney Rob Galibois did not immediately return a request for comment Monday afternoon.

The U.S. Coast Guard, Massachusetts state police, and Edgartown police and fire officials were all aiding in the two-day search.

Island police and fire officials conducted door-to-door searches in the wake of the missing persons report, as well as dives late into the night, Edgartown fire chief Alex Schaeffer wrote in a statement to the Gazette.

Firefighters also searched the pond’s shoreline by foot.

“We are deeply saddened by the outcome of this event, but grateful for the massive effort that was supported by our local fire rescue members,” the chief said.

Edgartown police notified the public about the missing man in a statement released shortly before 10 p.m. Sunday. The department also urged people to stay away from the pond and the surrounding area to allow emergency responders to perform the search.

After several hours of searching Sunday, efforts were rekindled Monday morning. Divers, boat crews with sonar and helicopters were all being deployed, according to state police.

Shortly before noon Monday, Edgartown police chief Bruce McNamee reported that multiple units had cleared out of the pond.  The police department announced that Wilson’s Landing had been opened back up to the public at 11:53 a.m. A spokesperson from the Coast Guard also confirmed that their helicopter had left earlier that morning. They deferred further questions to the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s office.

In an Edgartown select board meeting Monday, town administrator James Hagerty thanked the first responders who worked throughout the night, despite the tragic outcome.

“The first responders did a great job all things considered,” he said.



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