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A Hit-and-Run Death in the US and an Indian-Origin Family's Quest for Justice

Devesh Samtani was hit by an SUV on 10 August 2021, leading to his death 3 days later.

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Devesh Samtani, an Indian-origin student, was 18 years old when he was hit by a car in the Hamptons in the United States last year.

The family of Samtani, who live in Hong Kong, were all set to get him settled at New York University, where he had been admitted to study economics, but that was not to be.

On the night of 10 August 2021, Samtani left a party with his cousin, Kabir Kurani, and was trying to book an Uber to go to the latter's home when suddenly an SUV mowed him down, and sped off into the darkness of night.

Kurani rushed his cousin to the hospital, where he died three days later.

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The culprit was identified as Daniel Campbell, who was 19 years old when the incident occurred. There were reportedly 10 people in the car with him at the time of the incident, two of whom took a picture of his licence plate and reported the hit-and-run.

A Long, Arduous Legal Battle

Since the accident, Samtani's family have been involved in an arduous legal battle, seeking jail time for Campbell. However, all that they were given in the name of justice was five yeas of probation and six months of community service for the culprit, but no imprisonment.

However, his sentence may be extended in light of new evidence, brought forth this month by Benjamin Brafman, a celebrity criminal defence attorney engaged by the Samtanis to fight their case.

The evidence suggests that Campbell has a history of rash driving, with an array of previous traffic violations, including several speeding tickets, a suspended driving licence, and even a head-on collision, according to Daily Mail.

"One of the accidents he was involved in was a head-on collision with another vehicle on a road that was clearly marked one-way. He was headed in the wrong direction. It was a miracle that no one was killed or hurt," Brafman said.

The new evidence, which has been submitted to the court, could get Campbell incarcerated for 90 days, even though Samtani's parents, Mala and Kishore, had demanded jail time for the accused for anywhere between one and three years.
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Mala also carried a picture of her late son to the court, and demanded justice for him.

'He Was Not Only My Son, He Was My Best Friend'

"I feel so lost. The pain is stabbing me 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," Mala said in an interview with Patch.

Devesh Samtani was hit by an SUV on 10 August 2021, leading to his death 3 days later.

Devesh Samtani.

(Photo: deveshsamtani.com)

Speaking about the day the incident took place, Mala said that she had seen her son just 45 minutes before he was hit.

"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," she said.

She further spoke about how gifted her son was, so much so that people used to call him a "human calculator" because he excelled in mathematics. "I used to call him my 'hedge fund boy'," she added.

Devesh Samtani was hit by an SUV on 10 August 2021, leading to his death 3 days later.

Devesh Samtani (second from left) and his family. 

(Photo: deveshsamtani.com) 

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"He was excited to go to college, to realise his goals, and just like that, he was taken away. I can't stop thinking, 'How did this happen? Why did this happen?'" Mala said.

In his honour, Samtani's parents have started a non-profit organisation called the 'Devesh Samtani Foundation', which provides quality education to children from low-income backgrounds, especially ethnic minorities, in Hong Kong.

A scholarship at NYU, called the 'Devesh Samtani Scholarship', was also started in his memory and has already been issued to at least 40 students.

"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," Mala told Patch.

She also said that he was involved with charities from a very young age, especially those created to help children in different ways.

"He was very passionate about children; that's why he wrote a children's book," she said, adding that he had also created a brand called Humble Genes, which was involved in designing hoodies and caps.

When asked why the company was called 'Humble Genes', Mala said that her son realised how "privileged our family was, and that he wanted people to be more grateful and mindful of their surroundings. He believed we have to look after people."

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Speaking about the accident that took her son away from her, she said, "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."

Mala sleeps in her son's bed at night, with his photo beside her, and hugs his clothes tightly. She also sends her son messages on WhatsApp, writes him daily letters in a journal and converses with him.

"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."

(With inputs from Daily Mail and Patch.)

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Topics:   United States   Hong Kong   Indian Origin 

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