By Matthew Chayes
August 17, 2021
Eighteen-year-old Devesh Samtani of Hong Kong had just flown in for his freshman year at New York University. But first, he and 13 family members were summering together in the Hamptons.
“As soon as he landed in New York, he came out east, and the plan was to be together for two weeks in the Hamptons with the family and then start NYU,” said Samtani’s aunt, Jennifer Kurani, one of his relatives at the rental house, which was in Sagaponack.
Only days into the family’s getaway, Samtani was among a large crowd Aug. 10 walking in the roadway, away from a house party in Amagansett, when he was struck on Old Stone Highway near Eastwood Court by a teen driver about to drop people off at that same party, according to the East Hampton Town Police Department.
The driver, later identified by the police as Daniel Campbell, 19, fled the scene and was arrested hours later in Montauk. Samtani never regained consciousness, and he died Friday at Stony Brook University hospital.
“We were very blessed to have him for those 18 years in this world,” said his uncle, Jay Kurani, Jennifer’s husband. Now, instead of seeing Samtani off to start at NYU later this summer, where he was to study economics and math, the family is holding a funeral Wednesday in Manhattan and mourning the sudden loss of a young man who long dreamed of living in New York.
“He was so charming, whether it was with his peers, teachers, girls, guys — like, everybody,” said his aunt.”He was just that person. And his voice was always soft. He was never loud and obnoxious. He was just kind and fun.”
Devesh, of Indian ancestry and educated in Hong Kong, was a son of , the family entrepreneurs behind the Hong Kong-based “As Seen on TV” manufacturers of gadgets — nonstick pans, Ginsu-type knives, massagers and other household products. The products, made in China, are sold by retailers around the world, including in the United States at Walmart, Target and CVS.
The evening of the crash, the family had gone to dinner together; later, Devesh, his cousin, 17, and the cousin’s friends headed to Amagansett, his aunt said.
“We came home. The boys, they took off to the party, and then we got the phone call within an hour,” she said: Her own son called the family to say what had happened to Devesh.
At the time of the crash, according to Det. Sgt. Daniel Toia of the East Hampton Town Police Department, Samtani had been in a large crowd of Hamptons partygoers who were spilling out of the gathering after the police had broken it up. There are no sidewalks there, and Samtani was on the side of the road, his uncle said.
Campbell, of Montauk, was driving his SUV at 11:35 p.m. and about to drop people off at the party, Toia has said. That’s when Campbell struck Samtani and fled, according to Toia, leaving Samtani with head trauma and other injuries.
Based on a description of the vehicle and the license plate remembered by partygoers, the police tracked down Campbell and arrested him at 2:43 a.m. last Wednesday at his home, Toia said. Campbell is charged with fleeing the scene of a crash; he was freed pending arraignment, which is Thursday. Newsday has been unable to reach Campbell for comment.
Factors being investigated include Campbell’s speed, where exactly Samtani was when he was struck, the curve in the roadway, and the lack of lighting, Toia said Tuesday morning.
On Monday, Samtani’s family recalled a gregarious teen who took courses at Columbia and Yale, played tennis, and made friends everywhere he went.
“He danced. He sang. He was very much well rounded. It wasn’t just academics. It was everything,” his aunt said.
Among the causes he supported by raising money in school, his family said, was a group supporting ethnic minorities in Hong Kong through art.
And, his aunt said,”his dream was to start a hedge fund.” But for now, he was elated to be back in New York. “He loved the energy of it. He wanted to come here,” she said, adding:”Every summer in New York, I would say since he was a baby, since he was born, was in New York City, so this was definitely his dream to go to school here and work and go to grad school eventually. That was his seven-year plan.”
Freshman year was weeks away, and he was spending the time until then with his mother, aunts, uncles, cousins, a brother, and grandparents Jennifer Kurani said:”It was his first time in the Hamptons.”