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Aug 9, 2012 1:44 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Gregg Saunders, Whole Foods Developer, Lost In East Hampton Crash

Aug 14, 2012 6:24 PM

Gregg Saunders, 55, of Sagaponack was killed in a head-on collision on Montauk Highway in East Hampton Village last Thursday. A partner at Philips International Holding Company, Mr. Saunders was a real estate developer, mostly to the west, who this spring had opened a Whole Foods grocery store at the former Plitt Ford car dealership in Wainscott.

Mr. Saunders was on his way from Southampton to East Hampton to meet a friend at Nichol’s restaurant for an 11:30 a.m. appointment on Thursday. The accident took place on Montauk Highway just east of Green Hollow Road, less than a mile away from the restaurant, and it was reported to East Hampton Village Police at 11:41 a.m.

Village Police said that Benjamin Rechler, 19, of Brookville, New York, was headed west in a 2010 Audi SUV when he reached into the back seat to adjust a surfboard that had shifted, and while doing so crossed into the oncoming lane of traffic. His car collided with the 2012 Prius Mr. Saunders was driving.

Mr. Saunders was pronounced dead at Southampton Hospital, where he had been taken by Amagansett Ambulance after being freed from his car by East Hampton Fire Department rescue volunteers.

Mr. Rechler was treated for minor injuries at Southampton Hospital and released, as was his passenger, Taylor Frank, 17, of Brookville. A third car was hit from behind as its driver stopped suddenly to avoid the accident, but no one was hurt in those two vehicles, which were driven by Robert Pyrt, 46, of Seaford, with three passengers, and Lindsay Murphy, 19, of Montauk, who had one passenger.

Montauk Highway was closed between Cove Hollow Road and Stephen Hands Path for approximately five hours on Thursday, reopening at 5 p.m., while police investigated the accident. No criminal charges were lodged against Mr. Rechler, although he was ticketed for failing to keep right and crossing the pavement markings by driving left of the center line.

According to Village Police Chief Jerry Larsen, Mr. Saunders had been wearing a seat belt. His appointment last Thursday was with Bob Schaeffer, who writes a column about Wainscott for The Press and knew Mr. Saunders as an East Hampton Town Planning Board member involved with the Whole Foods project.

Mr. Schaeffer said he was not sure what Mr. Saunders wanted to speak to him about at Nichol’s, but suspected that Mr. Saunders was interested in purchasing the old Star Room property, once home to the Swamp. The property is on the north side of Montauk Highway only three buildings down from Whole Foods in Wainscott.

As Mr. Schaeffer writes in a Press Box in this issue, Mr. Saunders called him at 11 a.m. on Thursday to say he was on his way and expected to make it on time if traffic allowed. When Mr. Saunders failed to show up at Nichol’s at 11:30, Mr. Schaeffer called to postpone their appointment because he had a lunch date; his was the last call to Mr. Saunders’s phone.

Mr. Saunders was “lively, entrepreneurial, a regular guy,” Mr. Schaeffer said. He said Mr. Saunders was “very, very bright, fun and focused.”

Mr. Saunders had purchased a farmhouse known as “the four-square,” after its architectural style, on Hedges Lane in Sagaponack from the Peconic Land Trust. When he expanded the house and added accessory structures, it created controversy in the village about whether stricter limits should have been imposed.

“He was a good guy, a bit controversial—all developers are,” Mr. Schaeffer said.

“People I knew who had dealt with him liked him,” Mr. Schaeffer added.

Mr. Rechler, the other driver in the accident, is the son of Mitchell Rechler of Rechler Equity Partners, the developers who own the Canoe Place Inn property in Hampton Bays. Mitchell Rechler and Mr. Saunders were not acquainted, according to a spokesman for Mitchell Rechler.

The developer issued a statement on Friday. “Our family is heartbroken by this horrific tragedy,” it said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Saunders family.”

Burial was at Mount Ararat Cemetery in Farmingdale following a service for Mr. Saunders at Star of David Chapel in 
Babylon. At the chapel’s web page, the family suggested donations, in lieu of flowers, to the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons.

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Methinks it's not the media coverage, but a higher frequency of wrecks this year.

Anybody have concrete numbers?
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 9, 12 2:28 PM
(5) Napeague Stretch, Old Stone Hwy, 114, North Haven (delivery truck driver), and now this one!!! This is out of control!!!! I've lived in the Hamptons all my life and I have NEVER seen anything like this before! There are some realy CRAZY drivers out there.
By bonac79 (18), East Hampton on Aug 10, 12 9:54 AM
The Nun in Water Mill as well. Assailant still at large btw.
By HarborDad (37), Sag Harbor on Aug 10, 12 1:48 PM
Ditto to HarborDad on this one.

Next Monday evening will mark the FIFTH week since Sister Walsh was left to die on the side of the road!

And the authorities waited 11 days to release the subject's name and photo, asking belatedly for the public's help.

This is no time to argue over whether Mr. Saunders' untimely death, or Sister Walsh's tragic hit-and-run, is more deserving of investigation and prosecution of the responsible drivers, but please don't forget the injustice ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 10, 12 2:44 PM
1 member liked this comment
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 10, 12 2:45 PM
I agree. So many accidents, during the DAY, that result in fatalities! What is going on? Distraction? Texting? Phone use? It's awful. And, all the animals that are killed or maimed!

I live and walk on a street with 25 MPH signs clearly posted. I find drivers doing 40. So dangerous, blind curves. When I ask people to please slow down, I've been given the finger or screamed at to get off the road.
Why is everyone is such a rush - especially when they come here to unwind. What gives?
By concerned east ender (49), Sag Harbor on Aug 16, 12 4:42 PM
1 member liked this comment
Oh my gosh ! I'm so so sorry to hear that there was a fatality. So many head-on collisions lately. Please everyone, be careful out there.
By marybmary (54), east hampton on Aug 9, 12 4:49 PM
Although we really don't know the cause of this accident yet, I wouldn't be surprised If a cell phone was the cause of it. Texting and driving, in my opinion is as dangerous, if not more dangerous,than driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs. I too have texted while driving, and quickly realized how easy it is too lose concentration and control of the vehicle. It seems that we are facing a fast growing epidemic here. It only takes a few seconds to destroy lives.
By Lets go mets (377), Southampton on Aug 9, 12 11:59 PM
All have been head on crashes this year has to be texting... Thats why I drive an Escalade silly little prius will cost you your life
By joe hampton (3461), south hampton on Aug 10, 12 12:44 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Aug 10, 12 12:43 PM
1 member liked this comment
This is very sad. Clearly there have been too many fatal accidents in this area in recent times. Maybe its too much volume? Something has to be done. It's got to stop. It's scary. Time for the off-season to return.
By louse pt. (143), springs on Aug 10, 12 7:03 AM
This crash, and the one on 114 last week, occurred on curves. The 114 crash was at the end of a long straight section of road (one poster I believe even said that the curve had been named Dead Man's Curve before 114 was widened and straightened out?). I looked at the site a day or two later, and it appears the pick up truck simply kept going straight when the road curved right. The man driving the car eastbound did not have a chance IMO, even if you had told him to watch the pickup coming his way, ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 10, 12 7:20 AM
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Correction, car was going westbound (or northwest to be more accurate?).
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 10, 12 11:20 AM
Re: 114 crash a week ago. Sorry.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 10, 12 11:21 AM
I have it from a good source that the driver of one of the vehicles, reached over to get something that fell into the floor board on the other side of the car. While doing this, his car went into other lane.
By EH123 (22), East Hampton on Aug 10, 12 8:01 AM
Rumor overheard this morning that one of the drivers had a medical problem -- TBD. The names are to be released today, according to the article.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 10, 12 10:45 AM
Per the update at 10:50.

"Mr. Rechler, who was driving west, struck Mr. Saunders’s car after reaching into the back seat to adjust a surfboard that had become ajar, according to police. While doing so, he crossed into the incoming traffic lane, according to East Hampton Village Police."

Pretty lousy equation, eh?

Loose Surfboard = Lost Life.

What a tangled web we weave.

PS -- So sorry for Mr. Saunders' family for their loss of a dynamic young man.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 10, 12 11:17 AM
It would be interesting to know who the registered owner of Mr. Rechler's vehicle is. His family and related corporations have some pretty deep pockets it would appear. No great consolation to Mr. Saunders's family, but . . . . . just sayin' . . . .

Drive safe, everyone.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 10, 12 1:16 PM

"just sayin" what exactly? Why is it relevant who the registered owner of the vehicle was and why does it matter that they have deep pockets? Saunders probably could have bought the Rechlers 3 times over . . . money is irrelevant with respect to the loss of a life - especially as a result of an accident which this was.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Aug 10, 12 3:15 PM
PBR I can hear the crickets . . .
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Aug 11, 12 9:32 AM
How are there no charges? This is a clear cut case of reckless endangerment not to mention reckless endangerment.

Reckless endangerment is a crime consisting of acts that create a substantial risk of serious physical injury to another person. The accused person isn't required to intend the resulting or potential harm, but must have acted in a way that showed a disregard for the foreseeable consequences of the actions. The charge may occur in various contexts, such as, among others, car ...more
By itsamazing (224), Southampton on Aug 10, 12 11:44 AM
2 members liked this comment
It was an accident - all accidents are preventable and every accident is the result of doing something that shouldn't have been done (wether it's going too fast, adjusting the radio, taking eyes off road etc.). The young man took someone's life - I think that's punishment enough. How will sending him to jail for 10 years help anything aside from seriously sidetracking this young man's life? (and no I don't know him).

On that note, RIP Mr. Saunders, you were a millionaire unlike so many ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Aug 10, 12 11:52 AM
Punishment for who? He screwed up, and KILLED someone! No, ifs and or buts about that. I'm not saying he intentionally did it, but there should be criminal charges. He had the privilege (not the right) of driving a car, he was reckless while behind the wheel, and, as a result, killed someone. In my mind, that's a crime worthy of some kind of jail time and loss of license.

If it sidetracks his life, so be it. At least he still has a life to live.
By itsamazing (224), Southampton on Aug 10, 12 1:32 PM
2 members liked this comment
Your mind does not determine the law, why so quick to extract the pound of flesh? There is an investigation ongoing and that investigation or a grand jury will determine if there was sufficient negligence to merit criminal charges.
By VOS (1241), WHB on Aug 10, 12 2:18 PM
1 member liked this comment
If a poor kid had done this he'd be charged and in jail.Money talks very loudly
By TianaBob (256), S.Jamesport on Aug 10, 12 9:46 PM
Tell us, specifically, under what section of law a "poor kid" would have been charged. It's all there in the internet , so take a few minutes and enlighten us. You make it sound like the Rechtlers were standing there pulling hundred dollar bills off a roll and handing them to the cop investigating this accident. Tell us how they pay off the DA's office while you're at it.
Good grief.
By Phadreus1340 (144), Southampton on Aug 11, 12 9:11 AM
Hello? Bob? Are you there Bob? Guess you're buried inside the Vehicle and Traffic Law book looking for an answer.
By Phadreus1340 (144), Southampton on Aug 13, 12 9:29 AM
Basically I have 2 words for you LIZZIE GRUBMAN. Drunk and high she sped backwards in her daddy's Mercedes SUV.She sent 14 people to the hospital.Meanwhile she sped away to sleep it off.Daddy hired Eddie Burke and she wobbled into court the next day.They hired another lawyer and she was sentenced to a very limited amount of time at the Suffiolk Co.Jail but first the facilities had to be inspected to see if it would meet Lizzie's approval.
By TianaBob (256), S.Jamesport on Aug 14, 12 5:53 PM
How is that in ANY WAY a response to Phadreus's question? He asked (and I ask you) what law this kid broke and what he should be charged with and sent to jail on.

The kid easily could have said he didn't know what happend and he lost control - but he acknowledged what he did. It was an accident - every car accident is essentially preventable, but unless a law is broken you can't be sent to jail regardless of your social status.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Aug 15, 12 2:26 PM
Let's just see what the Grand Jury says in Riverhead.
By TianaBob (256), S.Jamesport on Aug 15, 12 10:19 PM
Why would it go to the Grand Jury?
By Phadreus1340 (144), Southampton on Aug 15, 12 10:23 PM
Hellooooooo TianaBob? Once again, why would it go to the Grand Jury? What charges do you think the DA would want to press against this little rich kid? And if money speaks, why would they be going to the Grand Jury?
By Phadreus1340 (144), Southampton on Aug 16, 12 3:56 PM
Our laws in this country are crazy when it comes to MVA's. If you ever want to kill someone and get away with only a small fine, do it by running them down in your car.

Gun = felony & Jail time
knife = felony & jail time
choke hold = felony & jail time
Run them over in your vehicle = small fine and possible misdemeanor.
By C Law (354), Water Mill on Aug 10, 12 12:27 PM
If you can prove that someone intentionally tried to kill with a car it's not a small fine/misdemeanor. I get what you're trying to say but it's not true at all.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Aug 10, 12 12:34 PM
2 members liked this comment
How fast could this have happened. What about the safety of this Prius. Would you want to be driving a motorcycle or a Prius?
By patrickstar (67), hampton bays on Aug 10, 12 12:37 PM
The forces that exerted on both vehicles during a head on collision are tremendous. Two vehicles driving at the suggested speed limit on montauk hwy (45mph) that slam head on into each other obsorb each vehicles speed and doubles. The forces of these cars colliding has the equivelent force of a car doing 90 mph and slamming into a concrete wall.
Aug 11, 12 4:54 PM appended by Unkown Local
By Unkown Local (18), southampton on Aug 10, 12 4:54 PM
That's not true at all. It's the force of something going 45 mph crashing into a wall. Mythbusters proved this is true.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Aug 10, 12 5:00 PM
1 member liked this comment
On the subject of texting, fault, etc which we have frequently found ourselves on recently with all of the accidents in our impetus to find closure in these tragedies, I would like to offer the following perspective: It's not one small thing (texting) that causes these incidents, it is a general attitude towards driving that has prevailed in this country for a long time, since well before cell phones. We Americans do not take driving seriously for some reason. We don't take good care of our roads, ...more
By Brian Bailey (36), Southampton on Aug 10, 12 12:40 PM
6 members liked this comment
Peace to Mr. Saunder's family
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Aug 10, 12 12:44 PM
Tragic, almost got whacked by a Southampton Police car last Thursday in Watermill responding to a fender bender. Scary on our little country roads. Be careful folks.
By BlackDog (47), Boca Raton on Aug 10, 12 12:52 PM
My Uncle Gregg was the most caring, honest, and big-hearted person I've ever known. He brought such life to everyone around him, including me. This is such a tragedy, and my family is at a huge loss. We are all heartbroken, and in a state of total shock. Something needs to be done, this kid KILLED my Uncle. He is accountable for my Uncle's tragic death, and he needs to be held responsible. Rest in Peace Uncle Greggie, keep making everyone smile and laugh wherever you are <3
By meredithfox (1), Sarasota on Aug 10, 12 1:03 PM
3 members liked this comment
I am so sorry for your loss. I can't even imagine what your family is going through. Just so you know there was a waiter who works at Fresno in East Hampton who saw it all happen and rushed to your uncle and tried to save him until the ambulance got there.
By PeteyBoy (8), Southampton on Aug 11, 12 11:07 AM
1 member liked this comment
I think this area needs more support on traffic from the county, the state, and sheriff at this time of year. Its not enough for the county to help with just DWI dragnets. There are a lot of minor infractions we see out there every day that can cause these situations: No signals, rolling though stop signs, presuming traffic patterns (the 7 ponds/scuttle road corridor)...At all way stop signs, if you make a full stop people presume you are ceding the right of way rather than making their own full ...more
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Aug 10, 12 1:15 PM
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BS, you think more enforcement is going to force people to stop being the impatient jerks that they are? You are dreaming. More enforcement has never solved any problem.
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Aug 10, 12 3:16 PM
2 members liked this comment

Like Bailey wrote it's about behavior. This country truly is juvenile when it comes to societal convention, and social conscience. Warranted, there are always "exceptions to the rule", but as a whole American "culture" is downright "terrible two" worthy. The arrogance and ego of our part time residents is a shining example. Nine times out of ten when I meet one, the contents of your wallet is more important than the content of your mind, or character. I've lost count of the times ...more
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 10, 12 7:35 PM
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Today I had to turn around on Head of Pond, as traffic was backed up to Whispering Fields. Put on my hazards, backed into the driveway on the bend, and a woman in a Land Rover tried to pass the nose of my Kenworth on a blind bend over the double yellow into oncoming traffic.

Luckily, all it got her was fifty feet about 5 seconds before she otherwise would have.


I know that may be asking alot of some people...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 10, 12 3:41 PM
1 member liked this comment
Traffic on Head of Pond is always backed up to Whispering Fields at certain times of the day. Even in winter.
By btdt (449), water mill on Aug 19, 12 11:46 AM
I knew Mr. Saunders-he was a customer at my previous job. He always had a big smile and a warm hello for everyone in the shop, even the other customers that he'd never met before. And he was always such a kind gentleman. My prayers go out to his family during this tragic time.
By EastEnder2 (30), Hampton Bays on Aug 10, 12 3:56 PM
meredith fox so sorry for the loss of your uncle. May he rest in peace. His legacy will carry the family through this very tough time. Although I did not know him personaly I understood he was a remarkable man. My condolences.
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Aug 10, 12 6:03 PM
Z - tree fell down across roadway at Head on Pond and Narrow Lane which effectively closed the "local route" for several hours. Sorry you had such a near miss by the LR. we probably cannot stop the stupidity but we locals must remain especially alert while on the roads we know like the back of you hands. Will be over in a few weeks.
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Aug 10, 12 6:07 PM
Instead of giving me the bird (as if I was the jack***), maybe she should have followed me.

Citdiot is, as citdiot does.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 10, 12 7:11 PM
meant our hands
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Aug 10, 12 6:10 PM
It was nice when only we knew the backroads. Thank you Dan's Paper. Remaining especially alert is the only defense you have when driving.
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Aug 10, 12 6:50 PM
believe it was DellaFamina's daughter who wrote the book on back roads but Dan sure helped along ther way
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Aug 10, 12 7:09 PM
2 members liked this comment
So sad and so wrong. We have had two head on fatalities recently caused by young drivers distracted by something. They will have to live with their consciences as their main punishment, as it seems they are not being booked for much. Meanwhile, the poor families of each victim have lost someone special and irreplaceable due to the terrible decisions made by these young men, which is a cruel punishment. The nun who was struck and left to die may also have been a victim of a distracted driver as she ...more
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Aug 10, 12 8:00 PM
And the EH Village police know a phone was not involved HOW? Because the kid said so?
By East End 2 (151), Southampton on Aug 10, 12 8:44 PM
Perhaps they looked at his phone ?
By Phadreus1340 (144), Southampton on Aug 11, 12 9:13 AM
1 member liked this comment
I thought maybe everyone can use a little cheering up this morning, so picture this:

You're at a stop sign, and an old woman on a bike is headed towards you. She blows the stop sign and as she rides away printed on the back of herr shirt and silk screening is a speed limit 25 sign...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 11, 12 8:18 AM
I thought maybe everyone can use a little cheering up this morning, so picture this:

You're at a stop sign west, and an old woman on a bike is headed towards you north. She blows the stop sign and as she rides away printed on the back of her shirt in silk screen is a speed limit 25 sign...

Talk about the pot and kettle, eh folks?

Citdiot is, as citdiot does.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 11, 12 8:21 AM
1 member liked this comment
I want facts. Was the victim wearing a seat belt? Was the victim distracted? And if there was a passenger in the accused, why didn't the passenger adjust the surf board? I am so sorry for this loss of life, there are so many unanswered questions, but I'm guessing that high paid lawyers will keep them unanswered.
By LI native (127), east moriches on Aug 11, 12 8:21 PM
1 member liked this comment
Well you could FOIL the accident report and get answers to your questions. Except the victim has passed so he can't say if he was distracted ( doubtful) Seat belt use would be quite evident, and the "accused"? Story says he had a passenger. So ask him why he didn't adjust the surfboard. High paid lawyers have nothing to do with anything anything except wingnuts conspiracy theories.
By Phadreus1340 (144), Southampton on Aug 12, 12 8:16 AM
ahh yes, the wingnuts, the wingnuts that think that there was some kind of conspiracy attached to the hit and run driver that killed the Sister, and the persons name and picture took 3 weeks to put out...
By just breath (82), yuck on Aug 12, 12 10:10 AM
1 member liked this comment
Z i drive a K whopper around the hamptons too I keep a couple of extra bottles of water for westchester/ nj/ manhattan lol nuff said
By baymen (26), hamptonbays on Aug 11, 12 10:46 PM
1 member liked this comment
July-August - Mayhem out here

By Summer Resident (251), Southampton N.Y. on Aug 12, 12 10:38 PM
Meredith Fox I'm so sorry for your families loss. I agree with you Benjamin Rechler sould be held accountable for your uncle's death. What message are we sending reckless drivers. Why didn't his passenger Taylor Frank fix the surfboard? It's heart breaking where is the justice for innocent drivers. This is really CRAZY a human life is taken without any justice. MONEY IS REALLY THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL.
By Bridgehampton (36), Bridgehampton on Aug 14, 12 5:45 PM
What does this have to do with Money? Mr. Saunders had just as much money (if not more) than the Rechlers. It was an accident - there was no intention to crash into Mr. Saunders and it's different from texting/talking on phone because those actions are conscious and delibrate activities which are forbidden by law. Adjusting the surfboard was stupid, but it's not criminal. He has the guilt of taking another man's life - do you think jail will help things out in any way?
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Aug 15, 12 2:24 PM
1 member liked this comment
Whoa there . . .

Turning around and taking his eyes off the road INTENTIONALLY is actually WORSE than texting/talking on the phone (with "one eye on the road" presumably).

Forget the surfboard -- if Mr. Rechler had said "I am going to turn around intentionally and IGNORE what is coming up on this busy road in August on 27 in EH," how would you respond to this intentional act to disregard the possibility of risks? !!!

The fact that Mr. Rechler CHOSE CONSCIOUSLY to turn ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 15, 12 2:46 PM
PBR - do you not agree that human error is not the cause of virtually every accident on our roads? Even when bad weather is invovled, operator error comes into play. I'm not saying what the kid did wasn't stupid but it wasn't criminal.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Aug 16, 12 10:23 AM
The LOVE of money is the root of all evil....that is misquoted far too often.
By squeaky (291), hampton bays on Aug 14, 12 5:55 PM
1 member liked this comment

"Avarice is the root of all evil."
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 16, 12 4:57 PM
People want to know what the recent head on fatal accidents have in common. Young drivers. In nearly all, if not all of the accidents, it has been a young person who left their lane and ran head on into a car in the opposite lane. And not all of the young people are "cidiots." There have been locals involved.

I dislike the term "cidiot," since nearly every time I have been passed on a two lane road while doing at least 5 mph above the speed limit, or have nearly been killed when someone ...more
By btdt (449), water mill on Aug 18, 12 12:44 AM
1 member liked this comment