New York

Ex-Uber Driver Pleads Guilty to Manslaughter in ‘Car Surfing' Death of 15-Year-Old NY Boy

"Words cannot describe how deeply troubled we are by this incident," an Uber spokesperson said at the time of his arrest

What to Know

  • An Uber driver pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter in the death of a passenger he allegedly let ride on his roof last fall
  • The 15-year-old boy, Ryan Mullen, had been riding on the roof Sept. 23, officials say; he fell off and hit his head on the road, then died
  • In a previous statement, Uber told News 4, "Words cannot describe how deeply troubled we are by this" and said the driver was off their app

The former Uber driver charged with manslaughter in the death of a 15-year-old passenger prosecutors said he let ride on the roof his vehicle on Long Island last year has changed his plea to guilty, authorities say. 

Danyal Cheema's plea to second-degree manslaughter Thursday means he will be sentenced to 10 months in jail plus five years probation in the death of Ryan Mullen. Mullen had been riding Cheema's roof Sept. 23 in Huntington Station; he fell off and hit his head on the road, then died of injuries related to the trauma.

Cheema's attorney expressed condolences to Mullen's relatives, adding, "My client is very remorseful and sends his condolences to the Mullen family. He hopes this brings them closure. He broke down in tears when this happened."

Mullen's parents also released a statement, saying the plea in part helps them close the first chapter of a story they'll have to live with the rest of their lives.

"This is a sad day for us. We remain heartbroken. We are sorry for our son Ryan who had his life taken at far too young an age," the Mullens said. "Our family continues to feel the pain of his loss every moment of every day." 

Their statement continues: "Despite our deep pain, we appreciate Mr. Cheema accepting responsibility for his actions. Although he made a number of extremely poor and reckless decisions that night, we know that he did not set out to hurt Ryan. He too will have to carry the burden of Ryan’s death with him for the rest of his life. Our thoughts go out to him and his family as well."

Mullen and two friends -- both 16 -- had spent the night out partying in the Cold Spring Harbor area that fall night. After the last party, they called for an Uber. Cheema picked them up. They went to a 7-Eleven, then, according to Sini, asked the driver to "car surf." They offered Cheema $70 to let them do it. 

The transaction was not made then, prosecutors had said. At some point later, the boys revisited the proposition, offering to pay Cheema $40 to let them ride on top of the car. It wasn't clear if Cheema allegedly immediately accepted the money, but at some point, Mullen and another boy were on top of the car as Cheema drove. Mullen fell off and hit his head on the pavement. 

It was all caught on Snapchat.

Mullen was taken to a sleepover in Huntington and died that night. The medical examiner's office ruled the boy's cause of death to be blunt force trauma to the head. Prosecutors  acknowledged that poor decisions were made all around, but said Cheema was an adult and the boys were minors. As an Uber driver, too, Cheema was entrusted to get his passengers to their destinations safely, prosecutors said.

Cheema, who previously had pleaded not guilty in the case, will be sentenced some time next year. It wasn't clear how long he had been with Uber. The ride-share company told News 4 at the time Mullen died that it was cooperating with law enforcement on the investigation.

"Words cannot describe how deeply troubled we are by this incident," an Uber spokesperson said when Cheema was arrested. "Our thoughts are with the rider’s family during this difficult time. This driver has been permanently removed from the app."

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