‘I Can’t Live Without Him’: Mom Of Teen Killed In LI Hit-And-Run

Patch Staff
Oct 13, 2021

“He was my best friend,” said the mother of Devesh Samtani, an 18-year-old from Hong Kong who was killed in a Long Island hit-and-run.

AMAGANSETT, NY — Wednesday marked exactly two months since Mala Samtani lost her son. On Aug. 13, 18-year-old Devesh Samtani died after a hit-and-run crash in Amagansett four days earlier.

Everything was ahead for Devesh, his mother said: His family was visiting the Hamptons from Hong Kong, where they live, as they prepared their son for his first semester at New York University. But on a dark roadway in Amagansett, all of Samtani’s dreams for her son died as the driver who hit him sped off into the night.

The crash happened at 11:35 p.m. on Old Stone Highway near Eastwood Court when Daniel Campbell, 19, of Montauk, was driving north in a 2012 Honda Pilot and struck Devesh, who was walking in the road, police said. Campbell drove off and was arrested at his home at 2:43 a.m. Wednesday morning, police said.

Campbell was arrested and charged with leaving the scene of an accident. The SUV he was driving reportedly had 10 people inside, according to the East Hampton Star. Samtani was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital, where he died, police said.

Two months later, Samtani is left trying to piece together the unthinkable — and create a way to memorialize her son, who was a published author in Hong Kong. He wrote and designed a book, “Ash’s Birthday Party,” to help children navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

Devesh’s family — the entrepreneurs behind the Hong Kong-based “As Seen on TV” gadgets — is working with New York University to create a scholarship for students in financial need. A foundation will also be created to do good works in his name, his mother said.

But despite the plans to honor him, Samtani is struggling desperately to survive without her boy. Her husband and remaining two children are also broken with grief, she said.

“I feel so lost,” she said. “The pain is stabbing in my heart, every second. I can’t sleep, I can’t eat … People ask me, ‘Are you feeling better?’ How can I feel better? It’s the same loss. My son is still not with me.”

At night, Samtani sleeps in her son’s bed, his photo beside her, hugging his clothing tightly in her arms. She cannot make sense of what’s happened to her beloved boy.

“He was excited to go to college, to realize his goals, and just like that, he was taken away. I can’t stop thinking, ‘How did this happen? Why did this happen?’ It’s going to drive me insane. To deal with losing a child, those questions don’t stop in your mind.” Her voice breaking, she added: “I’m completely lost in life.”

In the morning, Samtani does not want to get up. “I just want to go and be with my son.”

Remembering those last, bright days, Samtani said her family arrived in the Hamptons on August 10.

“It was a normal family holiday,” she said.

Her brother, Samtani said, got the call. “We all ran to the hospital. It was something that I would not want anyone to go through, what I went through, the pain.”

She had just seen her son 45 minutes earlier.

“My brother dropped him off at a friend’s house and in 45 minutes, we got the call, telling us that he’d been hit. How can that be? He was just with us at a family dinner. It’s not possible. I wish I could say that this was just a bad dream but as time goes by you realize this was a nightmare. And it actually happened.”

Samtani does not want to accept that her son is gone. “I don’t want to believe that he has been taken away from me.”

Her son, she said, excelled in school. “He used to tell me that he was going to open a hedge fund. He was so good in school that his friends called him the ‘human calculator.’ I used to call him my ‘hedge fund boy.'”

Devesh loved math and economics and the scholarship will be dedicated to students pursuing careers in those fields. “Maybe someone else can become a ‘hedge fund boy’ for their parents,” she said.

Giving back was her son’s hallmark, Samtani said. From a young age, he was involved with charities, especially those organized to help children. “He was very passionate about children; that’s why he wrote a children’s book.”

Her son also created a brand, Humble Genes, and was designing hoodies and caps, Samtani said.

When his friends asked about the origin of the name Humble Genes, her son told them that during the pandemic, he realized how many had been affected and how grateful he was — how he cherished his family, she said.

“He said he realized how privileged our family was, and that he wanted people to be more grateful and mindful of their surroundings,” Samtani said. “He believed we have to look after people.”

His friends, she said, will carry his mission forward and keep the Humble Genes brand alive in his memory. Whatever funds they raise will be donated to the foundation created to help others as his legacy.

Devesh loved playing chess. He also loved basketball, soccer, tennis and cricket, as well as water sports and playing the piano, Samtani said.

But most of all, he loved his family, including his father Kishore and brothers Kunal and Viren, Samtani said.

She and her youngest son shared an irreplaceable bond.

“Every birthday, every anniversary, every Mother’s Day, he’d bake me a cake with his own hands. He loved going into the kitchen and surprising me,” she said. “I’m going to miss that so much. It’s not going to be the same now.”

Her son also used to bring her breakfast in bed on special occasions. He’d accompany her willingly to Hindu services —and to the store, never letting her carry a grocery bag. He greeted everyone with his big, easy smile and welcoming words, she said.

“He was the life of the house, the shining star of our home. That is Devesh,” Samtani said.

Thinking about the crash, Samtani is wracked with anguish. “How could you hit somebody like that and not stop? Maybe if he had stopped, my child could have been saved. His error has cost my son his life. There is no way I can get my son back. He’s shattered us.”

Her son was taking online courses at MIT, classes he never got to finish before that dark night on a narrow road. The staff contacted his parents to say that he’d gotten a perfect score on the assignments he’d completed.

Her son loved math, called himself a “mathlete” and took photos of his work, challenging equations that he kept on his phone, where he also played math games. “He was a numbers guy,” she said.

Eventually, Samtani would like to open a school in her son’s name — and create resources for others who have lost loved ones to hit-and-runs. “We know how painful it is.”

Carrying her son’s legacy forward through giving back is what Devesh would have wanted, his mother said.

The tragedy has been devastating for Devesh’s friends, too, Samtani said.

And for her mother’s heart, the loss is too great to fathom. “He was not only my son. He was my best friend. My baby. A boy any mother would want. And then he was snatched away, just like that … In 45 minutes, I lost him.”

The morning he died, Devesh had just gotten the results of his A-level exams. He woke her up at 3 a.m. and said, “I just got my grades. I got all As,” Samtani said.

“I told him we were going to celebrate that night. That night, he got hit.”

Samtani talks to her son every day, leaves him messages on WhatsApp, sends him notes, and writes him daily letters in a journal. Her voice and words are forever unanswered now.

“I just tell him, again and again, please come back to me. I miss you so much. I love you so much. I tell him, ‘I just can’t live without you.’ I wish I could just go to sleep and God would take me.”

She has not stepped outside, even for a walk, back in Hong Kong. “I don’t want to leave his room … It’s two months, but it’s the same loss today. And it will be the same loss next year.”

Learn more