A New York Uber driver is accused of manslaughter after three teenage passengers who’d been drinking allegedly paid him to let them climb onto the roof of his moving car — and then one of them fell off and died, PEOPLE confirms.
The driver, 24-year-old Danyal Cheema, of Huntington Station, was charged Monday with second-degree manslaughter in the death of 15-year-old Ryan Mullen, of the Cold Spring Harbor area.
Cheema is being held in lieu of $200,000 bail following his arrest on Sunday. It was unclear if he’d 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.
In the incident shortly after midnight on Sept. 23, Cheema was behind the wheel of his 2010 Toyota Highlander as an Uber driver when he picked up the three teen boys in Huntington, after they had been drinking, according to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office.
On the way to their destination, the boys allegedly offered Cheema $70 cash — and gave him $40 — if he’d let them climb onto the car’s roof at an intersection so they could “car surf” as the vehicle took off, the investigation revealed.
Mullen and a second teen then remained on the roof as Cheema drove along Cove Road, with the third boy recording them in a Snapchat video.
Mullen’s subsequent fall led to head trauma “which resulted in his death,” according to the prosecutor’s office. Although Cheema brought all three boys to their destination at a home in Huntington, Mullen “succumbed to his injuries in his sleep later that day,” the prosecutor’s office said.
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“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.”
“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.”
He added: “In this day and age, we often encourage people to use ride sharing services because it’s a safe alternative to drinking and driving. 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,” Sini said.
In his obituary, Ryan was remembered as a “loving son” and “fierce friend.”
He “lived life so large and his time here was short,” his family wrote. “God had other plans.”
Cheema faces five to 15 years in prison if convicted of the manslaughter charge. He is due back in court on Friday.