Uber Driver Faces Manslaughter Charge in Death of Teen He Let 'Car Surf'

Uber driver Danyal Cheema, 24, of Huntington Station, Suffolk County, was arrested by police on Sunday (November 4) after allegedly causing the death of Long Island teenager, Ryan Mullen, aged 15. Suffolk County District Attorney's Office

An Uber driver pleaded not guilty to a second degree manslaughter charge on Monday after a 15-year-old passenger he let "car surf" on his vehicle fell off and died.

Danyal Cheema, 24, of Huntington Station, Suffolk County, was arrested by police on Sunday (November 4) after allegedly causing the death of Long Island teenager Ryan Mullen, aged 15. He is accused of letting the passenger ride on the roof of his car on September 23.

The fatal incident occurred between 12:03 a.m. and 12:35 a.m. when Cheema—a contractor for Uber—was driving three teens in his Toyota Highlander. As first reported by Newsday, a daily newspaper operating in Suffolk County, the three teenagers had been drinking at the time.

A statement from the district attorney's office said the passenger offered Cheema $70 cash to "car surf" on his vehicle while it was moving. While that transaction was never agreed to, they later paid him $40 to climb onto the roof of the vehicle while it was at an intersection. Mullen then fell off and struck his head on the road. It was recorded on Snapchat, officials said.

The driver, prosecutors said Monday, then drove the three teens to a home in Huntington. Mullen, who had suffered severe head trauma, later died in his sleep, the DA's office said.

"We often encourage people to use ride sharing services because it's a safe alternative to drinking and driving," district attorney Timothy Sini said in a statement.

"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…conduct that caused the death of a young boy, and he will be held accountable for that."

If convicted, Cheema faces a maximum sentence of five to 15 years in prison. Represented by Christopher Renfroe, Cheema's next court appearance is scheduled for November 9.

In a statement obtained by NBC New York (News 4), an Uber spokesperson said: "Words cannot describe how deeply troubled we are by this incident. Our thoughts are with the rider's family during this difficult time. This driver has been permanently removed from the app."

The driver should have contacted 911 after the fall, Mullen's family told WABC-TV Eyewitness News. "What if the driver was responsible enough to say no?" his father Matthew Mullen said in an interview Monday. "What if he reacted differently and got our son medical attention?"

District attorney Sini said on Monday: "This was an incredibly bad decision by the defendant and a bad decision by the boys involved. 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."

Newsday reported Mullan was a student at St. Anthony's High School. It also reported, citing comments that were made in court on Monday, that Cheema had no previous convictions.