Ryan Mullen, the 15-year Long Island, New York, teen who died after he fell off the top of his Uber while “surfing” on it last week, was not the adult in that situation. The driver was — and it was the driver who should have stopped him from doing something stupid.
This was the message of Ryan’s parents in an interview they gave this week after the arrest of 24-year-old Danyal Cheema, the man whom Long Island prosecutors say drove Ryan home after the teen and others had been out drinking in the Cold Spring Harbor area.
The district attorney’s office has said that Cheema, who is charged with second-degree manslaughter, was allegedly paid $40 by the boys to be allowed to “car surf” on his roof while one of them filmed it for social media.
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“[Ryan] got into a car with the expectation of getting home, and there was an adult present and the adult should have said, ‘That’s a bad decision, no you’re not allowed to do that,’ ” his mother, Janice Mullen, told ABC13.
She continued: “Besides the fact that what they did was illegal, it was a bad decision and again even when there was a possibility of Ryan being hurt, that he was hurt, there was an adult there and as an adult — any adult: mother, father, anyone — as an adult, we need to watch out for our children.”
Ryan died in his sleep on Sept. 23 after he and his friends decided to film themselves on the roof of their Uber ride with Cheema’s permission, according to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office.
The three boys, who had been drinking, allegedly offered Cheema, $70 cash — and gave him $40 — if he’d let them climb onto the car’s roof.
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Ryan and a second teen got onto climbed on top of the 2010 Toyota Highlander as Cheema drove, while the third teen recorded them in a Snapchat video, according to prosecutors.
But Ryan fell off during the ride and suffered from head trauma which resulted in his death as he slept later that day.
“What if the driver was responsible enough to say no?” Ryan’s father, Matthew Mullen, told ABC13. “What if he reacted differently and got our son medical attention?”
“This was an incredibly bad decision by the defendant and a bad decision by the boys involved,” District Attorney Timothy Sini said in a news release. “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.”
In Ryan’s obituary, family and friends shared their memories of the teen.
“Ryan was a fierce friend who had the ‘perfect friend group’ but was friends with everyone,” his obituary stated. “He loved to laugh, enjoy life, or spend the day on the boat with his friends.”
“Ryan lived life so large and his time here was short,” the obituary continued. “God had other plans for Ryan.”
Cheema is being held in lieu of $200,000 bail following his arrest on Sunday. It was unclear if he has entered a plea.
His attorney, Christopher Renfroe, did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment. Newsday reports that, in court, Renfroe said Cheema was remorseful. He is due back in court on Friday.
In a statement to PEOPLE, an Uber spokesperson said Cheema had been banned from their service.
“Words cannot describe how deeply troubled we are by this incident,” a company spokesperson said. “Our thoughts are with the rider’s family during this difficult time.”