The death of Barack Obama’s personal chef while paddleboarding in Martha’s Vineyard has been ruled an accident, a state official has said.
Tafari Campbell, 45, visited the resort island in late July and was on Edgartown Great Pond near the former president’s summer home.
He was seen going under the water, sparking a two-day search for his body.
Timothy McGuirk, from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, said on Tuesday the cause of death was drowning and an accident.
But the update has left numerous unanswered questions, not least surrounding the identity of the female paddleboarder who was with him and the identity of the 911 caller from the Obamas’ home and what they said.
McGuirk also said that Massachusetts does not release autopsy results to the public – the accident ruling was all that was released by the authorities on Tuesday night.
Campbell had been a sous chef at the White House and came to work for the family after Obama completed his second term in 2017.
Campbell had visited Martha’s Vineyard several times, playing golf on several occasions at the nearby Farm Neck Golf Club.
Witnesses first told cops at the time that a man – later identified as Campbell – went underwater and then briefly reappeared as he struggled to stay afloat, before submerging again around 7.46pm.
The witness – who was not identified – was paddleboarding on Edgartown Great Pond with Campbell.
A massive joint-agency search was launched when a 911 call was made from the Obamas’ Martha’s Vineyard home on Turkeyland Cove Road.
The dispatch call said: ‘Edgartown Fire and Water rescue personnel, Turkeyland Cove Road. For a 40-year-old male, possible drowning.’
In the aftermath of the call, Chief Alex Schaeffer of the Edgartown Fire Department told the Vineyard Gazette, island police and firefighters conducted door-to-door searches. Firefighters also searched the pond’s shoreline on foot.
The search efforts resumed two days later for the chef, who was last seen wearing all black without a lifejacket.
His paddle board and hat were recovered Sunday – and his body was found later in the eight-foot-deep waters approximately 100ft away from shore.
In a statement following his death, the Obamas said Campbell was one of the top chefs in the White House kitchen: ‘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 update from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security has left numerous questions unanswered.
Authorities have routinely rejected requests for even basic facts, including the identity of the sole witness and the 911 caller.