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A frantic Secret Service agent hurriedly tells an emergency dispatcher that the Obama family’s chef was drowning after he fell off his paddleboard near the former president’s home in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., according to newly released 911 calls revealed 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 first emergency call occurred around 7:46 p.m., telling a dispatcher that at least one swimmer and another Secret Service agent had boarded a boat to try and get to Campbell.
They were not present when Campbell drowned, but an unnamed individual had called their attention to the situation.
“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.”
Then, a different male dispatcher asked Dave to give him a more detailed description of what Campbell was wearing at the time he went under.
Calling from the Secret Service’s command post, the audio indicated that the agent was conferring over the radio with other team members before being able to describe 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.”
Dave then radioed the team a couple more times to confirm that Campbell’s paddleboard had been recovered but that he was not wearing a life jacket at the time he went underwater.
Campbell’s body was recovered the following day in about eight feet of water, some 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, a native of Dumfries, Va., began as a sous chef at the White House under President George W. Bush’s administration and stayed on for Barack Obama’s two terms. The Obamas asked him to join them as their private chef when they left office.