EXCLUSIVE: Dramatic audio reveals Secret Service agent’s 911 call for help after Barack Obama’s personal chef Tafari Campbell fell off paddle board and drowned on Martha’s Vineyard
- DailyMail.com has obtained the 911 call made by Barack Obama’s Secret Service agents after chef Tafari Campbell fell off a paddle board on Martha’s Vineyard
- ‘We have a male drowning in the back of the property right now,’ the agent named Dave tells a dispatcher July 23
- Campbell’s body was found the next morning in shallow water by a rescue boat and investigators soon declared Campbell’s death an accidental drowning
A Secret Service agent at Barack Obama’s Martha’s Vineyard estate called 911 for help rescuing chef Tafari Campbell after he’d fallen off a paddle board, dramatic audio of the calls obtained by DailyMail.com reveal.
‘We have a male drowning in the back of the property right now,’ the agent named Dave tells a dispatcher at the 911 call center the night of July 23. ‘We have our rescue swimmers. They’re attempting to go out there right now.’
The agent reported that that there were already swimmers in the water trying to find the ‘house guest’ who’d fallen.
Audio from two initial calls, shared Tuesday by the Dukes County Sheriff’s Office, were heavily redacted, bleeping out names and other specifics about those involved and the property.
But the calls show early chaos as Secret Service, staff and others on site scrambled to get help after the Obamas’ personal chef Campbell, 45, fell into the water.
The former president would arrive minutes later, but there was no mention of him on the calls, nor was there any word of another paddle boarder who was with Campbell at the time, who sources tell DailyMail.com was a 26-year-old female Obama staff member.
Campbell’s body was found the next morning in shallow water by a rescue boat with sonar. Investigators declared it an accidental drowning early on, but have continued to cover up even basic information after declaring the case closed.
DailyMail.com has obtained the 911 call made by Barack Obama’s secret service agents after chef Tafari Campbell fell off a paddle board on Martha’s Vineyard
The Obama residence on Martha’s Vineyard. Tafari Campbell, 45, visited the resort island in late July and was paddle boarding near the Obamas’ summer home
Campbell had been paddle boarding with a woman, another Obama staff member, when he fell off his board and drowned in Edgartown Great Pond on July 23
The first call came at 7.46pm.
‘911 call, this line’s recorded, where is your emergency?’ the male dispatcher asks, followed by a 10-second bleep covering up the initial reply.
It picks up with the Secret Service agent announcing the drowning and rescue in progress. A boat was already on site, he noted.
‘A rescue swimmer and an agent driving down there right now to get on the boat,’ the federal agent told the dispatcher.
‘Someone came running up to our back post, saying a gentleman, it’s just a guest of the house, is out there drowning,’ Dave continued. ‘So right now our rescue swimmer is going out there.’
There is another bleep in the audio and then the dispatcher asks about access to the property and what other resources are needed.
‘Do you need an ambulance or water rescue as well?’ the dispatcher asks.
The agent pauses to ask those who were with him at the estate, then replies to the dispatcher: ‘They didn’t advise right now. I would say at least an ambulance. I don’t know what they’re doing in the back of property right now. We have our rescue swimmer who’s getting the boat right now. So, um, I would say at least an ambulance.’
The dispatcher tells him he’ll dispatch an ambulance and contact the fire chief to see about an additional boat.
After another eight second bleep, the agent asks the dispatcher if there’s an alternative number he can call for follow-up communications.
‘I don’t know if you have a better number for me to call you back if we get him out of the water,’ the agent states. ‘And I can give you another situational report. They’re not passing information over the radio right now.’
‘Yeah, I can give you that if you like,’ the dispatcher replies, and gives him the office number.
The agent notes they’ll have the gate open for an ambulance, then ends the call at the 3 minute 26 second mark with a basic description of the person who drowned – a male in his 40s.
The second phone call starts three minutes later, with the same agent giving an update noting that they still couldn’t locate the paddle boarder.
‘They’re out in the water right now but as of now they don’t know where he is,’ he said.
The dispatcher asks for more information about the victim, and gets a more detailed description.
‘He’s wearing all black, he’s on a paddle board, he’s 40ish years old, black gentlemen, regular build,’ the agent replied. ‘And we have our rescue swimmers on a boat in the area now.’
The dispatcher asks if the paddle board had been found, and the agent stated ‘they have the paddle board and his hat.’
The agent also confirmed that ‘he was not wearing a life vest.’
The dispatcher ended the second call at the 3 minute 23 second mark, stating, ‘So we have everybody on the way over there now to meet with you guys and gather their resources.’
Campbell’s death was officially ruled an accidental drowning, but authorities are yet to address how an apparently capable swimmer, paddle boarding near the ex-president’s summer home, could have drowned in shallow water
The chef was originally taken on by the George W. Bush White House and stayed when Obama won the presidency. He left to work for the Obamas in 2017. He is pictured here with his family
Campbell’s death was officially ruled an accidental drowning, but authorities are yet to address how an apparently capable swimmer, paddle boarding near the ex-president’s summer home, could have drowned in shallow water.
Details have trickled out from unofficial sources since then, with DailyMail.com exclusively revealing that Campbell’s paddle boarding companion was a young woman who worked in the Obama household.
Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition said Massachusetts police are abusingFreedom of Information laws
Releasing the summary conclusion of a report from the chief medical examiner, officials refused to reveal even basic findings, such as whether Campbell suffered a medical episode or was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
State police have also warned other law enforcement agencies to not to release information.
With the case now closed, Edgartown police released an incident report in late August confirming that it was a Secret Service officer who made the 911 call – as DailyMail.com first reported, but redacted his name, and left out information on the other paddle boarder, who was the sole witness to the drowning.
‘Per the request of the Massachusetts State Police, the names of the witness and reporting USSS agent have been redacted,’ Edgartown police chief Bruce McNamee replied to DailyMail.com when asked for the additional details.
After 11 days of silence, the head of the region’s First Amendment coalition told DailyMail.com that the state appeared to be violating the Public Records Law.
‘The burden is on law enforcement to show how their investigation may be jeopardized by releasing certain information,’ Justin Silverman, executor director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, said at the time.
Robert Bertsche, general counsel of the New England Newspaper and Press Association (NENPA), sounded a new alarm in late August, before the redacted 911 call was released.
Former President Barack Obama shared a touching tribute to his personal chef weeks after he drowned in a pond near his Martha’s Vineyard estate on July 25
Officials have refused to reveal even basic findings, such as whether Campbell suffered a medical episode or was under the influence of drugs or alcohol
‘The 911 call absolutely should be released,’ Bertsche told DailyMail.com.
‘So should the other details about the now-completed investigation by state or local authorities. That’s not merely the law – it’s a sound public practice.
‘When the government keeps secrets, the void inevitably gets filled with conspiracy theories, and that leads to suspicion and distrust of government,’ Bertsche added.
Robert Bertsche, general counsel of the New England Newspaper and Press Association, sounded a new alarm in late August, before the redacted 911 call was released
‘That doesn’t serve the legitimate interests of law enforcement – and it certainly doesn’t serve the public, which has a right to know how the police reached their conclusion.
‘By refusing to disclose the investigation details, the police have spawned a cottage industry of rumor-making and malign speculation,’ he said.
‘It’s natural for members of the public to ask: ‘What do they have to hide?’ ‘
Conspiracy theorists have questioned whether Obama himself has played a role in the alleged coverup.
Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a conservative activist group that has also filed for information on the case, was quick to pounce on a DailyMail.com report that Campbell was out on the pond with a female Obama staffer.
‘Who was that witness who was paddle boarding with him?’ Fitton asked DailyMail.com.
‘Obviously, it wasn’t his wife. So who was it? As of today, we still don’t have a sufficient reason for the withholding of any of this information.
‘We’ll be very interested to learn about communications between the Secret Service and the state and local police,’ Fitton continued.
‘It’s simple information. What’s the state secret about this other than to protect Obama, to protect him from embarrassment or having to answer questions on this.
‘This is why people don’t trust what they’re told about cases such as these,’ he said.
‘What otherwise looks to be a simple tragic accident becomes something else because the government withholds information improperly to protect a politician.’
Bersche, however, noted that the Massachusetts state police are notoriously secretive when it comes to the media.
He cited a 2015 survey conducted by the Center for Public Integrity giving the state an ‘F’ for public access to information.
He pointed out that the Boston Globe had to sue the state police in 2020 for repeatedly violating Public Records Law, including its failure to respond to its request for information on state police officers who left the force during the department’s controversial handling of the arrest of a judge’s daughter.
Following the news of Campbell’s untimely passing, his wife Sherise shared this photo on Instagram noting she was ‘heartbroken’
The department later folded and produced the records, while the Globe won attorney fees, Bersche said.
‘Sunlight is the best disinfectant, Supreme Court Justice Brandeis wrote more than a century ago,’ he said.
‘Those who are refusing to disclose details of what happened to Tafari Campbell, and how the supposed drowning death of this capable swimmer was investigated, are keeping the skies in Massachusetts cloudy indeed.’
And so, predictably, the conspiracists are having a field day. It’s a dumb practice, and a disservice to the public.’
The Edgartown Police Department, which was involved in the initial response but not the follow-up investigation, shared some of its information in August with DailyMail.com.
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