September 2, 2021
The death of Devesh Samtani, an 18-year-old summer visitor who had been struck by a car while walking on the side of the road in Amagansett at night last month, was an avoidable tragedy. Attention was initially focused on the 19-year-old part-time Montauk resident whose car struck Mr. Samtani then drove away. But there have also been calls for changes to the way police handle large gatherings of young people.
As best we understand it, on the night of Aug. 10, a massive party took place at a house on Timber Trail, a road off Old Stone Highway. According to many who were there, at around 11:30 p.m. East Hampton Town police began trying to disperse the crowd. Mr. Samtani was among a large number of people on foot, trying to summon a ride via Uber or another service. But, because cellphone connections are poor in that area, many began walking along Old Stone Highway. Some years ago, a young male pedestrian there was killed when he was hit in the head by the side-view mirror of a passing van. Similarly, Daniel Campbell was on the narrow, shoulderless road, when the Honda he was driving struck Mr. Samtani. Mr. Campbell drove away in a panic and was arrested at home in Montauk later that night. Mr. Samtani died of his injuries on Aug. 13.
Clearly, the Aug. 10 party’s hosts share some of the blame. Like many municipalities, East Hampton Town requires permits for private events with more than 50 guests, a condition of which is adequate parking. But word can spread quickly about teenager and young adult parties, and attendance can suddenly grow way beyond what was expected. This leaves law enforcement in a challenging position: how to safely break up a crowd in an orderly way.
As investigators finish piecing together their narrative about the accident that ended Mr. Samtani’s young life, local officials and police should also publicly examine how to prevent this kind of thing from happening again. The Timber Trail party was not the first huge event to be broken up by officers, nor will it be the last — the question is how to make Mr. Samtani’s death the last under these circumstances.