An Uber driver is facing up to 15 years in prison after being charged in the death of a Long Island teen who died while “surfing” on the roof of the driver’s car, officials said.
Danyal Cheema, 24, of Huntington Station, New York, was arrested Monday and charged with manslaughter more than a month after 15-year-old Ryan Mullen was fatally injured while attempting the stunt early on Sept. 23, according to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office.
Speaking with reporters Monday, Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini said there was plenty of blame to go around after Mullen’s death, but that criminal liability ultimately lay with Cheema.
“This was an incredibly bad decision by the defendant, bad decision by the boys, obviously, but he’s an adult, he was contracted to bring the boys home safely, and he failed to do that,” he said in a video posted online by Newsday.
The tragedy occurred just after 12 a.m. the morning of Sept. 23, after Mullen and two friends, both 16, had attended several parties in the area of Cold Spring Harbor, where they had been drinking, Newsday reports.
When Cheema picked them up, the teens offered him $70 to let them “car surf” on the roof of his 2010 Toyota Highlander, and although they eventually settled on giving the driver $40 to let them do the stunt, Cheema allegedly relented, according to Newsday.
Mullen and two pals clambered up onto the roof and Cheema drove off as a third passenger filmed the stunt on Snapchat, but at some point, Mullen fell off, bashing his head against the road, prosecutors told ABC News.
Mullen, a student at St. Anthony’s High School, died later that day in his sleep, according to ABC.
Matt Mullen, the dead teen's father, demanded answers for why a grown man working as an Uber driver, let the boys sway him.
“What if the driver had been responsible enough to say no?” he asked in an ABC News interview.
Sini added that the death was a violation of Uber customers’ right to expect a safe ride home when using the service.
"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, according to Newsday. "These boys were doing that; they were drinking that night and they made the right decision to contract with a car service."
In a statement to Newsday, Uber said it was cooperating with cops on the investigation, and that Cheema was no longer working for the company.
“Words cannot describe how deeply troubled we are by this incident. Our thoughts are with the rider’s family during this difficult time,” a spokeswoman said, according to Newsday. “This driver has been permanently removed from the app.”
At a hearing Monday, Cheema was ordered held on $200,000 cash bail or $400,000 bond, and is due back in court on Nov. 9, according to online jail records.
A lawyer for Cheema did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
[Photo: Suffolk County District Attorney's Office]
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