An Uber driver was charged with second-degree manslaughter Monday in the death of a 15-year-old boy who fell from the roof of the driver’s vehicle while “car surfing” after a night of drinking in September.
Ryan Mullen, 15, a St. Anthony’s student, died after he fell from the roof of the car and struck his head. He later died in his sleep after suffering severe head injuries.
The Uber driver, Danyal Cheema, 24, of Huntington Station, was arrested by Suffolk County Police on Sunday. He is charged with second-degree manslaughter, a C felony. The accident occurred on Cove Road in Huntington.
Suffolk County District Attorney said Mullen and other teens summoned an Uber car but then paid the driver $40 to allow two two of them to ride on top of the vehicle while a third teen shot a video of their actions.
“In this day and age, we often encourage people to use ride-sharing services because it’s a safe alternative to drinking and driving,” Sini said. “These boys were doing that; they were drinking that night and they made the right decision to contract with a car service. Unfortunately the defendant made a reckless decision and engaged in reckless conduct that caused the death of a young boy, and he will be held accountable for that.”
He was arraigned Monday before Suffolk County District Court Judge Jennifer Henry. Bail was set at $200,000 cash or $400,000 bond. Cheema’s license was suspended.
A video of the incident was recorded by the third passenger on Snapchat.
“We have a culture right now where the mindset is, ‘How can we outdo each other?’ particularly among young people on social media, and we often see the tragic consequences of that,” Sini said. “A lot of young people think they are invincible and that’s something we need to keep drilling in their heads that this could happen to anyone when you engage in this kind of conduct. At the same time, we also need to hold adults accountable when they’re part of the problem, and in this case the defendant was directly responsible.”
Cheema drove the three teenagers to their destination at a residence in Huntington. Mullen, who had suffered severe head trauma, succumbed to his injuries in his sleep later that day.
If convicted, Cheema faces a maximum sentence of five to 15 years in prison.
“It is my hope that parents use this tragedy as an opportunity to speak to their children about the dangers of underage drinking and to remind them that impairment clouds judgment and can lead to deadly consequences,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said. “I would like to thank the department’s homicide squad and the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office for ensuring Danyal Cheema is held accountable for his actions.”
“This was an incredibly bad decision by the defendant and a bad decision by the boys involved,” Sini said. “But at the end of the day, this defendant is an adult who was contracted to safely bring those boys home and he failed to do that.”
Cheema is due back in court on Nov. 9. He is represented by Christopher Renfroe.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Raymond Varuolo and Maggie Bopp, of the Vehicular Crime Bureau.