A concerned Secret Service agent urgently informs an emergency dispatcher that the chef of the Obama family had fallen from his paddleboard near the former president’s residence on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. These 911 calls were recently disclosed by the UK’s Daily Mail.
“We have a male drowning in the back of the property now,” said an agent who was identified as Dave in the first of two 911 calls after Tafari Campbell, 45, fell off his board into the Edgartown Great Pond and vanished under the surface for an entire day.
“We have our rescue swimmers, they’re attempting to go out there right now,” Dave told a dispatcher, per heavily redacted audio revealed by the outlet.
Dave’s initial emergency call was made at approximately 7:46 p.m., reporting to a dispatcher that at least one swimmer and another Secret Service agent had gone on a boat to attempt to reach Campbell. They were not present at the time of Campbell’s drowning but were alerted to the situation by an unidentified individual.
“It’s not clear from the call who the individual was, but previous reporting indicates it was a second, female Obama staffer who desperately tried to save her coworker when he went underwater,” the New York Post reported.
Dave said: “Someone came running up to our back post, saying a gentleman, it’s just a guest of the house, is out there drowning.”
The Post said that Dave then stumbled for words for several seconds after the dispatcher asked if the federal agents needed an ambulance or water rescue help. He said he wasn’t sure what was occurring “in the back of the property.”
“They didn’t advise right now. I would say at least an ambulance,” Dave said.
He then asked if he could contact 911 on another line to follow up, noting that “they’re not passing information over the radio right now.”
The Post adds:
The dispatcher agrees and gives Dave a number before ending the call with a final request: a basic description of the missing man.
Dave called dispatchers back just a few minutes later with a noticeably more panicked demeanor.
“So our rescue swimmers aren’t able to locate the gentleman that was reported drowning,” Dave said. “They’re out in the water right now, but as of now, they don’t know where he is.”
Afterward, another male dispatcher requested that Dave provide a more comprehensive description of Campbell’s clothing at the moment he submerged. The audio revealed that the agent, calling from the Secret Service’s command post, was in communication with other team members over the radio before providing details about the appearance of the Obamas’ personal chef.
“He’s wearing all black, he’s on a paddle board, he’s 40ish years old, black gentlemen, regular build,” the agent responded. “And we have our rescue swimmers on a boat in the area now.”
Afterward, Dave communicated with the team multiple times to verify that Campbell’s paddleboard had been retrieved but clarified that he was not wearing a life jacket when he went under the water. Campbell’s remains were found the next day in approximately eight feet of water, around 100 feet from the shoreline of the Obama estate.
“Tafari was a beloved part of our family,” the Obamas wrote in a statement following his death.
“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,” they added.
Campbell, originally from Dumfries, Virginia, initially served as a sous chef at the White House during President George W. Bush’s administration. He continued in this role throughout Barack Obama’s two presidential terms. Upon their departure from office, the Obamas invited him to become their personal chef.