Danyal Cheema of Huntington Station, 24, faces a maximum sentence of five to 15 years in prison.
Central Islip, NY - November 6, 2018 - Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy D. Sini today announced the arrest of an Uber driver for allegedly causing the death of his passenger by allowing the passenger to ride on the roof of his vehicle on Sept. 23 in Huntington. The passenger fell off the roof of the vehicle and struck his head on the roadway, causing head trauma which resulted in his death.
“In this day and age, we often encourage people to use ride sharing services because it’s a safe alternative to drinking and driving,” District Attorney Sini said. “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.”
Following an investigation by the Suffolk County Police Department’s Homicide Squad and the District Attorney’s Office, Danyal Cheema, 24, of Huntington Station, was arrested by Suffolk County Police officers on Nov. 4. He is charged with Manslaughter in the Second Degree, a C felony.
He was arraigned today in front of Suffolk County District Court Judge Jennifer Henry. Bail was set at $200,000 cash or $400,000 bond. Cheema’s license was suspended.
Between 12:03 a.m. and 12:35 a.m. on Sept. 23, Cheema, while operating as a driver for Uber, was driving three teenage boys in his 2010 Toyota Highlander 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 allegedly allowed them to climb onto the roof of the vehicle while at an intersection.
Two of the passengers, including Ryan Mullen, 15, of Cold Spring Harbor, remained on the roof of the vehicle while Cheema continued driving on Cove Road. Mullen then fell off the vehicle and struck his head on the roadway.
A video of the incident was recorded by the third passenger on Snapchat.
“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,” District Attorney 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. At the same time, we also need to hold adults accountable when they’re part of the problem, and in this case the defendant was directly responsible.”
Cheema drove the three teenagers to their destination at a residence in Huntington. Mullen, who had suffered severe head trauma, succumbed to his injuries in his sleep later that day.
If convicted, Cheema faces a maximum sentence of five to 15 years in prison.
“It is my hope that parents use this tragedy as an opportunity to speak to their children about the dangers of underage drinking and to remind them that impairment clouds judgment and can lead to deadly consequences,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said. “I would like to thank the department’s homicide squad and the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office for ensuring Danyal Cheema is held accountable for his actions.”
“This was an incredibly bad decision by the defendant and a bad decision by the boys involved,” District Attorney Sini said. “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.”
Cheema is due back in court on Nov. 9. He is represented by Christopher Renfroe.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Raymond Varuolo and Maggie Bopp, of the Vehicular Crime Bureau.
A criminal charge is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.