‘There’s no smile anymore’: Mother of Hamptons crash victim Devesh Samtani, two months later

The childhood bedroom of 18-year-old Devesh Samtani remains undisturbed two months after he was killed in an alleged hit-and-run crash in the Hamptons.

And his mother is keeping the room just as it was, Devesh’s grandfather says.

The PlayStation video game console for “Call of Duty,””Minecraft,””NBA 2K22.” The bay window where Devesh would sit to read the morning paper or a book on economics. The clothes in his closet, which his mother opened upon returning home to Hong Kong four weeks after the crash.

“It broke my heart. You know, like, especially — the Christmas gift that I had given him, the shirt was hanging up there,” his mother, Mala Samtani, told Newsday. 

Sunday is the two month anniversary of the alleged hit-and-run that killed Devesh Samtani, who had flown to New York with his family from Hong Kong so he could start freshman year at New York University.

In the weeks before college, Devesh Samtani was summering in the Hamptons with 13 family members in a rental in Sagaponack. The night of the crash, Aug. 10, he was part of a large crowd spilling out of a house party in Amagansett. The police had broken up the party and ordered everyone to disperse. He was hit in the road, allegedly by a 19-year-old driver about to drop people off at that same party.

According to a report from the East Hampton Town Police, there were 10 people in the SUV at the time. Hours later, the police tracked down and arrested the alleged driver, Daniel Campbell of Montauk, based on witness descriptions of the vehicle. He was charged with a felony count of leaving the scene of a crash resulting in serious injury, and freed on supervised release with GPS monitoring, according to Suffolk district attorney
spokeswoman Sheila Kelly. The case is due back in court Dec. 2, she said.

Campbell’s attorneys have not returned messages seeking comment, but that night he allegedly told the police: “I freaked out” before fleeing and “I thought I killed him,” according to a criminal complaint.

Devesh was the youngest son of Mala Samtani, 49. Since his death, she’s been dealing with depression, said her father, Devesh’s grandfather. Devesh was her best friend and companion, Mala Samtani said. His absence is even felt in the most mundane of ways: He was the family’s go-to for solving tech problems.

“He was the shining, brightest kid in the house … and now he’s been snatched away,” she said.

“What did I do to deserve this? … We’ve lost our happiness. There’s no smile anymore. We don’t know what a smile is anymore — we’ve lost it,” she said.

Thinking about what happened causes her hands to shake. She’s afraid to let her other sons go abroad — to college or for business. She cradles his photograph when she sleeps, imagining him there next to her. 

“Sometimes she talks to him, with the photo,” said Nick Kurani, 75, of Cliffside Park, New Jersey, Devesh’s grandfather. 

In the aftermath of Devesh’s death, his immediate family, including his brothers Kevin and Viren, and his father, Kishore, are all back in the family’s home, which is in Hong Kong’s Ho Man Tin neighborhood. 

To memorialize Devesh, the family is endowing a scholarship at New York University’s College of Arts & Science, for students studying math or economics — his favorite subjects — but who can’t afford tuition, Mala Samtani said. 

“He was so excited to go to college. We were going to shop for his college, for the dorm, we had plans. Devesh had a lot of plans.” But, she said:”Since he could not achieve his dreams due to the tragic incident that happened with him, I just felt, in his honor, I should do something, and maybe if he couldn’t do it, somebody else could do it.” 

The Samtani family, of Indian ancestry, are entrepreneur-manufacturers behind the “As Seen on TV” gadgets such as massagers, nonstick pans, Ginsu-type knives, and other household products. In the interview with Newsday, Mala Samtani recalled learning that Devesh had been struck. The family had just returned from dinner. She was in the Sagaponack rental’s living room when the phone rang. It was her nephew, who had gone to the party with Devesh, calling her brother. 

“Suddenly my brother got a call, and I heard him scream, ‘No! No! This cannot be happening! No! Where are you?’ Those words were so loud,” she said.

 The family didn’t know the extent of Devesh’s injuries until they got to Southampton Hospital. 

“When we saw him,” Mala Samtani said,”we were shattered.” 

Just hours earlier, the family had been enjoying dinner together on a muggy evening on the East End. 

“At 6, 6:30 my brother, and my nephew and my son were playing basketball, just like a normal family,” she said. 

Two months later, the family is looking for ways to remember Devesh Samtani — posting videos of him to YouTube, planning to start a foundation, and working with NYU on the scholarship in his memory.

Rebecca Portnoy, a spokeswoman for NYU’s College of Arts & Science, said the plan is to award the Devesh Samtani Scholarship in perpetuity to one student annually, beginning as soon as next year. 

Who is the ideal scholarship recipient? 

“What I’m looking for,” his mother said,”is someone like Devesh.”

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