Uber driver pleads guilty to manslaughter in death of Long Island teen killed while car surfing

HUNTINGTON, Long Island (WABC) -- An Uber driver has pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges in the death of a Long Island teenager who fell to the pavement after prosecutors say he was allowed to ride on the roof of the vehicle.

Danyal Cheema, 24, of Huntington Station entered the plea Thursday in connection with the Sept. 2018 incident that led to the death of 15-year-old Ryan Mullen of Cold Spring Harbor.

Prosecutors say Cheema was driving three teenage boys on Cove Road in Huntington.

The passengers asked Cheema for permission to "car surf," or ride on the roof of the vehicle as it was moving, and offered him $70 cash.

The passengers ultimately paid Cheema $40 and he allowed them to climb onto the roof of the vehicle while at an intersection, authorities said.

Mullen and another boy remained on the roof as Cheema continued driving, and Mullen then fell off the vehicle, hitting his head on the roadway. He died of his injuries hours after he arrived at a friend's house following the ride.

"This was a tragic incident that could have been avoided had the defendant not conducted himself in such a reckless manner," Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini said.

Cheema faces a minimum of 10 months in jail plus five years of post-release supervision when he is sentenced.

Ryan's parents, Matthew and Janice Mullen, issued a statement that read in part:

"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. Our family continues to feel the pain of his loss every moment of every day. 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. Mr. Cheema's plea allows us to close the first chapter of a story our family will be living for the rest of our lives. Ryan was an amazing young man who brought happiness to everyone he met. He touched so many lives and was determined to make the world a better place. We will channel our energy into honoring Ryan's memory and the legacy he leaves behind...We will also be continuing our work to grow Strive For Five, the foundation we established to honor Ryan's memory. Ryan loved to compete and was an avid soccer player. The mission of Strive For Five is to provide educational and athletic opportunities for students in Ryan's memory. We hope to continue to expand the reach of "Strive for Five" to impact as many young lives as possible."

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