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Remorse After Accident That Fatally Injured Teen

Wed, 01/05/2022 - 16:13
Daniel Campbell, center, with his attorney, Edward Burke Jr., left, is facing a felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death.
Christine Sampson

On behalf of his client, the driver in a hit-and-run incident in August that led to the death of Devesh Samtani, a Hong Kong teenager who was vacationing here, the lawyer Edward Burke Jr. offered sorrowful condolences Wednesday to the Samtani family outside Suffolk County Supreme Court in Riverside.

Some 15 minutes earlier, Justice Richard Ambro had arraigned Daniel Campbell, 20, on an upgraded felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death. The original charge, also a felony, was leaving the scene of an accident with serious injury; the victim died two days later.

Justice Ambro allowed the condition of supervised release imposed by East Hampton Town Justice Steven Tekulsky on Aug. 19 to continue.

Mr. Campbell, whose primary residence is Hastings-on-Hudson in Westchester County, and whose family owns a house and a store in Montauk, will next appear in the Riverside court on Feb. 15. "We'll look forward to future conferences with the court. There will be time to analyze everything, but today we just wanted to share our sorrow," Mr. Burke said.

The accident happened in Amagansett, on a dark and crowded Old Stone Highway not far from Timber Trail, where police had just broken up a huge house party. Mr. Samtani had been walking on the side of the road near where it curves at Eastwood Court. After hitting him, according to town police, Mr. Campbell paused about 100 feet away to look at the outside front of his father's Honda Pilot, in which he had nine passengers, then left the scene.

Eyewitnesses gave the vehicle's plate number to the police, who later tracked down the driver to his family's house in Montauk. Before police arrived to question him, Mr. Campbell dropped off his sister and the other passengers, all girls between the ages of 15 and 18, then met a friend at the beach.

He later told police in a written statement that "when I looked at the damage, I thought I killed him."

"If I could do it all over again, I would have stayed on the side of the road and called the police," he wrote.

Ray Varuolo, the assistant county district attorney who is prosecuting the case, said it will proceed not only with Mr. Campbell's statement, but also a videotaped admission and other evidence, including a search of his cellphone. That search, said the prosecutor, revealed  that after the accident Mr. Campbell was searching for bus and train schedules off Long Island.

Mr. Varuolo said that Mr. Campbell "had reason to know" that Mr. Samtani's injuries were serious. The teenager, who was to have begun his freshman year at New York University in the fall, was taken by Amagansett ambulance first to Stony Brook Southampton Hospital and later to Stony Brook University Hospital. He died two days later, on Aug. 13.

According to a statement released by a public relations firm hired by Mr. Samtani's family, he had recently published a children's book, written in both English and Mandarin, meant to help children cope with Covid-19. He was devoted to a Hong Kong charity called Mother's Choice, which serves orphans and pregnant teenagers from low-income families. His family has endowed a scholarship in his name at N.Y.U. and has also founded a nonprofit organization in his name, which can be found on Instagram at @LegacyOfDevesh and @DeveshSamtaniFoundation.

The ultimately fatal Aug. 11 hit-and-run accident was the second such high-profile crash in Amagansett in 2021. In November, Mark A. Corrado Jr. of West Babylon took a plea deal after the Jan. 13 death of Yuris Murillo Cruz, a mother of two young children, whom he struck with a borrowed pickup truck before fleeing, abandoning it, and taking an Uber home as authorities searched for him. The East Hampton Press reported last month that Justice Ambro had sentenced Mr. Corrado, 29, on Dec. 8, to serve 16 months to four years in state prison, on the same charge Mr. Campbell is now facing.


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