15-Year-Old Riding Atop Subway on NYC Bridge Falls to Death

This death comes about two months after a similar one in Brooklyn -- and the MTA says such dangerous incidents of subway surfing are on the rise

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A 15-year-old boy subway surfing over the Williamsburg Bridge hit his head on a piece of the span and fell under the train, which ran over and killed him, authorities say -- the second such death in the borough in less than 90 days.

The boy, identified by his mother as Zachery Nazario, was on a Manhattan-bound J train shortly before 11 p.m. Monday when he fell, according to police. He was pronounced dead at the scene. No other details were immediately available.

"As the train was coming from Brooklyn, there was a beam...and he got distracted or he looked to the other side — the next thing you know, he was hit and thrown to the tracks, and he was run over," said mom Norma Nazario. "I don't wish this to any mother."

Nazario said her son, who dreamed of one day joining the Marines, had spent the day in Brooklyn with his girlfriend and was heading back home.

She said she had never talked to her son about the dangers of subway riding, because she didn't even know it was going on or a thing that teens had been doing. The mother blamed social media for driving the behavior in young people.

"This was a really terrible, tragic incident of this young man and our team is going to do a host of things to bring awareness, to speak with other young people," said New York City Mayor Eric Adams.

It comes about two months after an eerily similar incident in Brooklyn claimed the life of another 15-year-old boy. He was on top of a J train and fell off as it pulled into the Marcy Avenue stop in broad daylight on Dec. 2. The boy made contact with the electrified third rail and died.

Roughly six months before that, a 15-year-old boy lost an arm in a terrifying subway surfing incident in Queens in late August. And in mid-June, wild video surfaced showing people riding atop a subway train as it crossed the Williamsburg Bridge. There were eight people on top of that J train during the early December trip. No one was hurt -- but the MTA sought to draw attention at the time to what they described as a concerning -- and escalating -- dangerous trend.

The transit agency doesn't differentiate between reports of subway surfing versus moving between train cars versus other incidents of people riding outside trains, rather grouping them all together into one annual sum. Either way, the number of incidents skyrocketed last year.

In 2022, there were 928 reports of such incidents. That's more than double the number reported the year before (206) and in 2020 (199), though those years may have seen data impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, the 2022 figure represents a 160 percent spike from 2019 levels (ridership in November and December 2022 had roughly returned to 2019 levels).

The latest incident was discussed at the MTA's board meeting on Tuesday.

"Subway surfing is not only illegal, it is super reckless, extremely dangerous and people die doing so. Tragedies like this are avoidable," said NYPD Acting Chief of Transit Michael Kemper.

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