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‘Give Me Back My Son’

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‘Give Me Back My Son’
Mala Samtani (right) with her mother Sunita Kurani, cradling Devesh’s photos, and crying out for justice. Photo Courtesy: Lisa Finn / Patch

“There is not a day that doesn’t go by that I don’t message him,” Mala says. “The only difference, I don’t get a reply anymore.”

Sindh Courier Monitoring Desk

Each day Mala Samtani writes a letter to her 18-year-old son, Devesh, and sends him a text message. “Devu, when are you coming back?” she asks. “We are waiting for you?”

There’s never a response.

The heartbroken mother lost her youngest son, Devesh Samtani after he sustained grave injuries from being hit by a car in the Hamptons, on eastern Long Island’s South Fork on Aug. 10, 2021. The killer driver that hit Devesh, who police identified as 19-year-old Daniel Campbell, allegedly fled the scene. Devesh, who died on Aug. 13 in a hospital, was the son of Kishore and Mala Samtani, the family entrepreneurs behind the Hong Kong-based ‘As Seen on TV’ manufacturers of gadgets.

“There is not a day that doesn’t go by that I don’t message him,” Mala says. “The only difference, I don’t get a reply anymore.”

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18-year Devesh Samtani who was killed by hit-and-run driver

Devesh’s family hoped to see killer driver held accountable for his actions. But the wheels of justice proved more than slow. It was expected that the hit-and-run driver will be sent behind bars, but after a year, there were rumours he wouldn’t be punished and instead judge may sentence him to six months of community service and five years’ probation in lieu of jail time. The verdict was postponed in August and again in September on the excuse of fault in computer system. The counsel of Samtani family says the killer-driver may be jailed but only for 90 days.

Daniel Campbell was a known offender and according to a report by Daily Mail, he had an array of previous traffic offenses including speeding tickets, a suspended license, and causing a head-on collision. The killer driver was accompanied by nine friends in his vehicle that hit Devesh. Though he had a history of traffic offenses, he was spared jail time in the Samtani case. The killer driver was spotted this August working at his mother’s business just weeks after it was revealed he would serve no jail time.

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Devesh Samtani’s grieved parents – Mala and Kishore outside the court

A mother’s mourning of her agonizing loss continues forever.

“Why? Why did this person took my son’s life?” Mala says in between sobs. “Why would someone drive and hit somebody and just leave them at the scene? I have to live with the pain of losing my child with every last breath.”

“I have stopped living. We have all stopped living. Campbell’s (Killer) negligence took my son’s life. My son had a life. My son had a future.”

Devesh, who lived in Hong Kong, was visiting family in New York. According to his mother, New York was like a second home and special place for Devesh, who spent summers there with his mother. He enjoyed attending Broadway shows, visiting museums, dining out at restaurants, and spending time with family.

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Devesh Samtani

New York would soon become his permanent home, as he was slated to start school at NYU in September. He was planning to study math and economics, his mother says.  “He loved math. It came easy to him. He always got top scores,” Mala says. “In school in Hong Kong, they used to call him the human calculator.”

“Devesh always dreamed of going to New York University,” she said. “They had the courses he wanted. He wanted to open up his own hedge fund company one day. I used to call him ‘my hedge fund boy.’”

Devesh was also a published author. He had written and published the children’s book “Ash’s Birthday Party,” which was meant to help children learn to cope with the COVID-19 by sharing their feelings. The book was written in both English and Mandarin. The proceeds from the book, Mala said, went to charity.

Devesh, who was described by his mother as a “giver,” loved to give back. She said he was devoted to charity work, including at the Hong Kong non-profit Mother’s Choice, which served children without families and pregnant teenagers of limited means. She said he frequently fundraised for the agency.Devesh receiving certificate of recognition

Devesh-Certificate

Devesh-Award
(Above) Certificate of Recognition. (Bottom) Devesh with an award in Hong Kong.

“He was the most loving kid. He used to keep everyone together. He was very kind-hearted, that was his nature,” Mala said, noting that he used to always give the “tightest hugs.”

He was her “twin soul,” she said. Theirs was a life filled with fun selfies, instant noodles, baking, chess, and the piano.

“Every Sunday, after family lunch and tea was my Sunday date with Devesh. We would go to the supermarket, walk the dog, spend time together,” she said. “Usually boys don’t like to go shopping with their mother’s but Devesh always did.

Devesh Samtani - Childhood

Devesh with mother Mala
Devesh with mother Mala

“Devesh was God’s gift to me. A perfect child,” Mala said who has two sons, older than Devesh.

The night he was injured, Devesh had dinner with his family, including his mother, aunt, uncle, and cousin. He left for the party around 10:30 p.m. “‘where’s my smile?’ I asked him,” Mala recalled. “He gave me the biggest smile that I will always remember.”

Mala’s brother-in-law dropped Devesh off at the party. It wasn’t long before she received devastating news.

“I saw him and one hour later he is not there. How is that possible?” she cried. “The pain is something I have to live with. How am I going to cope?”

Killer driver
Killer driver coming for court hearing

She added: “[Campbell] never apologized. Never checked on him. Never [went] to see him in the hospital. Nothing.”

Mala, who tries not to cry in front of her other children, as not to upset them, said that everything she does going forward is for her son. But living without him is difficult.

“I can’t sleep. I want to know where my son is. Will he come back? I visualize him with me,” she said. “Being awake is too painful.”

“I feel so lost,” she says. “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. . . I can’t live without him.”

Mala
Devesh Samtani’s mom Mala who spends sleepless nights

At night, Devesh sleeps in her son’s bed, his photo beside her, hugging his clothing tightly in her arms. “I wish I could say that this was just a bad dream but as time goes by you realize this was a nightmare,” she said. “And it actually happened.”

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, Mala says.

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,” Mala said.

Killer Driver and Parents of Devesh“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.”

“I believe in God,” she said. “There will be justice done.”

***

A devastated father had also been crying out for justice.

Kishore Samtani, pleading for accountability, wrote a letter to Judge explaining that after being separated by the pandemic, in August 2021 his wife Mala Samtani decided to plan a family reunion and a holiday in the Hamptons with her entire family for a period of 14 days prior to Devu starting his new journey in New York at New York University.

“My son Devesh arrived in New York on the 4th of August and the very next day they went to the Hamptons. They rented a home in the Hamptons. At 11:30a.m, on the morning of 11th August 2021 in Hong Kong, I got a call from my wife. She was shouting, screaming, trembling and telling me that Devu had been hit by a car and was desperately trying to arrange an ambulance or a helicopter to take him to the hospital. We do not know anyone in the Hamptons so we had no idea who to call and we did not have any relatives or friends we could reach out to there.”

Despite their desperate prayers for a positive outcome, their youngest son did not survive, Samtani said.

And the days since have been agony for his entire family, Samtani said. He is left with his memories, and with videos of his son, just 18, in his coffin.

He was declared officially dead 72 hours after reaching the hospital, he said.

Kishore Samtani
Kishore Samtani

“I am totally numb. Totally scared. Totally surprised. I have no emotions left in me. I spoke to him at the hospital to stay strong but he did not want to live with a broken body,” Samtani said. “I spoke to him in the memorial hall to come back — but he is not coming back.”

Samtani said he watches four videos every day: One of his son, lying in the grass on the side of the road “in a pool of blood.” Another, with Campbell reportedly driving away; another of him, at the hospital, begging his son to stay strong; and the last talking with this boy at the memorial hall, his son in a coffin.

“I live with this,” he said. “My life is not coming back.” Campbell killed my whole family with one strong hit. My wife cries every day and every night. My kids are as numb and scared as I am. As for Devu, we all miss him a lot, a lot, a lot.”

Samtani said losing his son “broke down my family. I am broken. But I am staying strong because I have to be the support for my family.”

Since he lost Devesh, Samtani told “life has totally changed.” And while he and his family have worked to create scholarships and a foundation in memory to his son, educating 46 children in Hong Kong in the subject of math, because Devesh loved mathematics, the loss is a thick blanket over his life and those of his wife and two older sons.

“I am empty,” he said.

Kishore Samtani told that he is left with questions, asking how a car could have a struck his son so hard that “he flew high in the air” and dropped, his head hitting the ground, with no one stopping to help. Campbell, Samtani said, reportedly “swapped cars and was trying to run away” but due to bail reform in New York State, never spent any time in jail.

“Campbell is able to go home, to his parents, his family,” he said. “I am shocked.”

And, Kishore said, what is most troublesome to him and his family remains: “There is no remorse. None of them have ever met with me. Not one letter. Nothing. Do they have a heart? Do they feel guilty? Or do they just not care? There is zero remorse.”

Kishore remains wracked with grief, the “what-ifs” tormenting his days. “I don’t know why I let him go to New York,” he said. ”He was very good with me for 18 years. He came to New York last year in August and just days later, our whole lives changed.”

Kishore says he wants to stand before the judge and have him look into his eyes, when he gives his ruling. “I want to stare at him and I want to see him staring back at me,” he said.

***

When the grieved family learnt of probable court verdict, Jeff Kurani, the brother of Devesh’s mother Mala, said he had a message he wanted to convey. “If Campbell receives a sentence of probation or community service, this criminal act will continue to cause tragedy. More families will continue to lose loved ones. If no strong punishment is served here, this will continue in the future. You should never allow the driver in a hit-and-run to walk free — can you imagine what kind of example that’s setting for others?”

“All the judge will be doing is encouraging others to do the same. There should be serious consequences. The judge has to make it right.”

***

Since his death, Devesh’s family spends two days a month doing something charitable in his memory. They have also set up a memorial scholarship at NYU in their son’s name for a student who is studying math and economics. Moving forward, they created a foundation and a school to serve underprivileged children, asylum seekers, and refugees. It’s what Devesh would have wanted.

When family and friends speak of Devesh Samtani, they use words like bright, charming, and loving.

“He was involved in Hong Kong charities. He was just a positive energy. He made friends in the Hamptons right away,” said his aunt Jennifer Kurani, who had hosted her nephew in Manhattan every summer when he visited from his home in Hong Kong.

He loved New York. He wanted to see snow for the first time, she said.

“He wanted to experience snow — that’s how simple it was for him. He found joy in everything he did. We look at snow as a hindrance to our lifestyle and for him it was on his list.”

The Samtanis and Kuranis are known for infomercial work and the As Seen on TV products.

Devesh with cousin
Devesh with cousin

On the evening of Aug. 10, 2021 they had dinner in Sag Harbor. Afterward, Devesh and his 17-year-old cousin met friends on the way to a party on Timber Trail in Amagansett, his uncle Jay Kurani said, but they did not make it to the party, because by the time they arrived, police were dispersing the 800 to 1,000 people in attendance. When they saw the scene outside the party, the boys turned around to find an Uber home, Kurani said.

It was around the corner on Old Stone Highway near Eastwood Court that Samtani was struck. His cousin was the one who called his parents, Jay and Jennifer Kurani, saying “Devesh was hit,” Kurani said.

Devesh Samtani was taken to Stony Brook University Hospital. He never regained consciousness, and died on Aug. 13.

Mr. Kurani said his nephew had taken courses at Yale and Columbia. “We remember his professor had praised him and written a letter for him because he was so exceptional out of the whole program.”

“That night it was not one who died,” said Mr. Kurani about the ripple effect of the accident. “Life will never be the same for anyone in our family, not the young ones or the old ones.”

The driver “has really ruined many, many lives. We don’t even know how to move on,” his wife said. “Everyone who knew him, around Hong Kong, around the world. There were 3,000 people who zoomed in to watch his funeral.”

***

Smiling son and father - Happy moments of Devesh and father Kishore in Hong Kong
Smiling son and father – Happy moments of Devesh and father Kishore in Hong Kong

In an obituary on Dignity Memorial’s website, Samtani’s parents describe him as “beautiful, handsome, kind, intelligent, and fun-loving.”

In loving Memory

Of Devesh Kishore Samtani

(March 5th 2003 – August 13, 2021)

Of all the special gifts in life,

However great or small,

To have had you as our son,

Was the greatest gift of all!

A special time, a special face, a special son, we can’t replace,

With an aching heart I whisper to you,

This is not the end, it’s until we meet again

Our beautiful, handsome, kind, intelligent, fun-loving Devu’s soul now begins its journey to the infinite, where he will dance with the angels above and live on earth with us in our hearts forever.

We love you Devu, and pray for your soul to be in eternal peace at the lotus feet of the lord.

Om Shanti

___________________

 Source: Devesh Samtani, Meaww, Daily Mail, East Hampton Star, Dignity Memorial, Brooklyn News, Design4ChangeHK, American Kahani, National Association of Bail Agents, Press Reader, Patch, and other websites.  

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