By Connor Beach
An Uber driver who was at the wheel when a Cold Spring Harbor teen fell off the roof of his car in September pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter last week.
Suffolk prosecutors said Danyal Cheema, 24, of Huntington Station entered the plea on April 18 at the state Supreme Court building in Central Islip.
Cheema was working as an Uber driver when he picked up three boys, including 15-year-old Ryan Mullen, in his 2010 Toyota Highlander just after midnight on Sept. 23, 2018.
While Cheema was driving the teens to a house in Huntington, prosecutors said they asked Cheema for permission to “car surf” on the roof of his car while it was moving.
After initially offering him $70 cash, the passengers ultimately paid Cheema $40 and he allowed them to climb onto the roof of the vehicle while stopped at an intersection on Cove Road in Huntington, prosecutors said. Two of the teens rode on the roof of the SUV while the third captured a video of the incident on Snapchat.
Mullen, a student at St. Anthony’s High School, fell off of the vehicle as it was moving and hit his head on the roadway.
Prosecutors said the teens got back in the car and Cheema drove them the rest of the way to their destination, where Mullen later died in his sleep from “severe head trauma.”
“This was a tragic incident that could have been avoided had the defendant not conducted himself in such a reckless manner,” Suffolk District Attorney Tim Sini said.
In a statement through their attorney, Ryan’s parents Janice and Matthew Mullen said they welcomed Cheema’s guilty plea and would continue to grow the “Strive for Five” foundation they have established to honor Ryan’s memory.
Cheema faces a minimum of 10 months in prison plus five years of post-release supervision when he is sentenced by Suffolk County Acting Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho. Prosecutors said he will be sentenced at a later date.