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Story - News

Jul 3, 2012 6:33 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Times Correspondent Loses Body Armor On County Road 39

Jul 4, 2012 8:35 AM

After a weekend in the Hamptons, New York Times correspondent Declan Walsh is out a bag of armor and a properly functioning leg—at least for now.

Having just returned from reporting in Pakistan, Mr. Walsh had been in Washington, D.C., and Manhattan for a series of meetings with colleagues, and interviews with officials of the Obama administration about policy toward Pakistan.

His friend and colleague Bill Keller, the former executive editor of the Times, and his wife, Emma, invited Mr. Walsh out to their house in Southampton before he traveled to Chicago, then home to Dublin, Ireland, before his eventual return to the Middle East.

At around 7:10 p.m. on Saturday, Mr. Keller picked up Mr. Walsh from the Hampton Jitney stop at the Omni in Southampton, placing the correspondent’s bags in the back of his SUV. After turning right onto County Road 39 and driving just a little more than 300 feet, motorists alerted the men that the vehicle’s rear door had opened, and Mr. Walsh’s navy blue duffle bag had fallen onto the highway.

“I think what happened was, the bags were pretty heavy,” Mr. Keller said, and one of them slipped and popped the rear door open.

After two minutes of maneuvering through traffic and making a legal U-turn, the men scoured the area and turned up empty-handed. “We drove around feeling confident we’d see the bag on the side of the road, but it wasn’t there,” Mr. Keller said.

Mr. Walsh’s lost bag, which weighed approximately 23 pounds, had unusual contents: three out of four pieces of a customized flak jacket, or body armor, and a combat helmet—all equipment he needs when he embeds with military units on patrol in war-torn countries.

After checking at the Hampton Jitney office and finding that no one had turned in the bag, they stopped by the Southampton Village Police headquarters, then checked with Southampton Town Police. They had no luck.

“I was feeling really guilty,” Mr. Keller said. “Here, I invited the guy for dinner and a swim, and we ended up losing his safety gear.”

Mr. Walsh said when he realized he wasn’t going to find his bag, he felt pretty dismayed. He thinks someone must have seen the bag fall, stopped their own car, loaded it up and drove off with it.

“I was pretty unhappy,” he said in a phone interview this week. “I can’t imagine what use the helmet or flak jacket would be to anyone in the Hamptons.”

According to Mr. Keller, when they approached New York Times Deputy Managing Editor William Schmidt with the news, he quipped, “Go out on the beach and look for somebody using the body armor as sunblock—it would be 10,000 SPF.”

Meanwhile, the memorable trip east wasn’t over yet.

On Sunday, the Kellers and Mr. Walsh went swimming at Wyandanch Beach. “I jumped over a wave and felt something go ‘pop,’” Mr. Walsh said. “I didn’t know the Hamptons was such a dangerous place.”

After getting Mr. Walsh to an orthopedist on Monday morning, they discovered that he had torn a muscle in his calf.

“I said, ‘I’m sure all your friends will say, “Five years in Pakistan and not a scratch on you,”’” Mr. Keller joked. “‘One weekend in the Hamptons, and you lose your bulletproof vest, and you turn yourself into a cripple!’”

If a Southampton Press reader has the bag, please call us at (631) 287-1500, or send an email to mailbag@pressnewsgroup.com.

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why did he need body armour in Southampton
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Jul 4, 12 1:21 PM
Fireworks.
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jul 4, 12 2:29 PM
1 member liked this comment
Maybe he wanted to get a few clams from the bay near the res.
By DJ9222 (85), southampton on Jul 4, 12 6:47 PM
body armour claming vests
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Jul 4, 12 11:28 PM
1 member liked this comment
He can't imagine what anyone would need body armour for in Southampton??? Oblviously he doesn't spend much time here in the summer....
By squeaky (291), hampton bays on Jul 5, 12 2:17 PM
Same question posted above. Do you two read anything beyond the first sentence? He is a war correspondent who just returned from Pakistan. Who knows where he lives, and whether or not he has been home yet.

Great get on this quirky story, by the way. Interview with Bill Keller, too. Nice job.
By UIRUDESU (7), Westhampton Beach on Jul 7, 12 1:53 PM
1 member liked this comment
UHhhh sarcasm genius.....lighten up.
By squeaky (291), hampton bays on Jul 8, 12 7:57 AM
I do not think I want ot be in a foxhole with this guy.
By lucy2 (63), Southampton, NY on Jul 5, 12 6:24 PM
sticky t.
By lucy2 (63), Southampton, NY on Jul 5, 12 6:26 PM