Authorities said divers recovered the body of Tafari Campbell, 45, from the Edgartown Great Pond after a paddle boarding incident in which he was seen getting into the water, struggling to stay on the surface, and submerging without resurfacing.
“My heart is broken,” Sherise Campbell, Tafari’s wife, said in an Instagram post on Tuesday. “My life and our family’s life is forever changed. Please pray for me and our families as I deal with the loss of my husband.”
An employee of former President Barack Obama died while paddle boarding near the family’s Martha’s Vineyard residence, state police and the Obamas said. @EmilieIkedaNBC reports on the latest. pic.twitter.com/JJGfKDXzHB
The message came from an account for Sweet Sage, a Washington, D.C., metropolitan-area baking and catering business owned by Sherise Campbell.
A joint statement from Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama called Tafari Campbell a “beloved part of our family” and a “talented sous chef at the White House” whom they invited to continue working for them upon leaving the Executive Residence in early 2017.
“He’s been part of our lives ever since, and our hearts are broken that he’s gone,” their statement said. “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 Massachusetts State Police (MSP) said a joint-agency search operation got underway after Martha’s Vineyard Police and firefighters responded to a call at 7:46 p.m. on Sunday about a male paddle boarder who disappeared in the pond. An initial statement from the agency said another paddle boarder was with Campbell and witnessed him go under the water.
With the help of side-scan sonar from a boat, divers were able to recover the body approximately 100 feet from the shore at a depth of about 8 feet on Monday morning, MSP said in a second statement. The agency also said an investigation into the fatality was being conducted by the State Police Detective Unit for the Cape and Islands District and Edgartown Police.
A third release from MSP identified Campbell as the deceased paddle boarder and described the drowning as an “accident.” The agency additionally noted that Barack and Michelle Obama were not “present” at the residence at the time of the incident.