The death of a 15-year-old subway surfer who tried to ride a train across Manhattan’s Williamsburg Bridge is the latest in a long line of deaths among daredevils who illegally traveled the rails on train cars.
The MTA says it doesn’t keep statistics on how many times they surf the subway. But agency data shows a sharp spike in cases of people traveling outside of train cars, nearly double the rate before the pandemic.
Last year, 928 people were found outside subway cars, more than four times the number in the previous two years. In 2019, the last full year of data before the pandemic caused subway ridership to drop, 490 people were caught outside a train car.
An MTA spokesman told The News that the agency’s data does not indicate whether the rider was found “floating” on the subway train or simply moving between cars.
But the spike in incidents mirrored the spread of subway surfing videos last spring and summer, the spokesman said, and the number of violations dropped again in the fall.
“We’re going to do a number of things to raise awareness,” Mayor Adams vowed Tuesday, calling the teenager’s death on Monday “really traumatic.”
“It was really a terrible tragic incident with this young man. Our team is going to do a lot of things to get attention, talk to the youth and really show how dangerous it is.”
Zachery Nazario climbed onto the roof of the J train as it passed the Williamsburg Bridge on Monday evening. He was hit by a train after being knocked off track by a beam and died on the spot.
“I can’t imagine the pain, suffering and grief going on right now in this child’s family,” NYPD Transit Bureau Chief Michael Kemper said Tuesday at an MTA board meeting. “Tragedies like this can be avoided – don’t do it.”
The boy’s death comes less than three months after another 15-year-old boy, Ka’Von Wooden, was killed in December while trying to ride another J train near the same location. Ka’Von died after falling onto the third rail near Delancey Street/Essex Street Station. He suffered a severe head injury and died on the spot, police said.
“We have several cases where some young people are surviving on this,” Adams said on Tuesday. “But when it is not, our youth tend to believe that this is not a dangerous collision. It is very dangerous”.
Train surfing is illegal under MTA rules and regulations, which penalize train surfing under the same rules as moving between subway cars. Violators are subject to a $75 fine, although an NYPD spokesman told the Daily News that they could also be charged with reckless endangerment, depending on the circumstances.
Adams places a lot of blame on social media posts glorifying daring stunts.
“I don’t think we have properly analyzed what social media is doing to us in general, but specifically to our youth, and I hope the president is calling a blue ribbon national commission to really analyze that,” Adams said. . “Some of these sites are more addictive than drugs. People can’t get off of them.”
“They are depriving our children of their innocence,” he added. “The national government should come in and say, ‘What is the corporate responsibility of social media?’
Two upstate brothers, Drew Hogan, 21, and John Hogan, 19, faced criminal charges last September after they were found riding a seventh train in Jackson Heights.
Their arrest comes just days after police grabbed the three teenagers for traveling to Sunnyside, Queens on the 7 train.
A few weeks earlier, 15-year-old Hamza Mohamed was hit by an R train at the Jackson Heights Roosevelt Avenue station after falling off a roof. The boy survived, but lost half of his left arm.
A month earlier, another 15-year-old boy was lucky enough to be alive when police found him on the roof of train number 7, unconscious from an apparent blow to the head.