© 2024 Blaze Media LLC. All rights reserved.
Mother of Manhattan teen who died 'subway surfing' files lawsuit, pinning blame on MTA and social media companies
An individual seen subway surfing in March 2023 in the Bronx. Photo by David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

Mother of Manhattan teen who died 'subway surfing' files lawsuit, pinning blame on MTA and social media companies

The mother of a Manhattan teen who died while "surfing" a New York City subway train last year has filed a lawsuit against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, TikTok, and Instagram's parent company, Meta, suggesting they had a hand in her son's untimely demise.

"Social media and the MTA, they failed my son," Norma Nazario told WABC-TV.

Three months after a 15-year-old boy died while unlawfully surfing on a Brooklyn train, Zackery Nazario, also 15, climbed onto a New York City subway car headed for a similar tragedy.

A low beam struck Nazario in the head while he was traversing the Williamsburg Bridge atop the train on Feb. 20, 2023. He fell onto the tracks below and was run over.

The illegal practice of subway surfing has grown in popularity among youths in recent years. Reported incidents spiked from 206 in 2021 to 928 in 2022. The trend continued last year, claiming the lives of Zackery and at least four others. WNBC-TV indicated that between January and June 2023 alone, the MTA documented over 450 instances of subway surfing.

Already in 2024, there have been multiple deaths connected to subway surfing attempts.

After a teenager died in Brooklyn last month riding outside the train, Richard Davey, president of New York City Transit, reiterated, "Subway surfing kills. Another innocent life has been lost, and it should not happen," reported the New York Times.

According to Norma Nazario's lawsuit, filed in the Manhattan Supreme Court on the anniversary of her son's death, the MTA failed to provide adequate barriers to preclude youths from climbing on its trains, "creating a serious and foreseeable risk of harm," reported the New York Post. The suit also faults the system for apparently not locking train doors.

The lawsuit further alleges that social media companies bear some responsibility for Zackery's death, having supposedly "goaded" him into attempting the stunt by recommending videos of others performing the feat.

According to the suit, TikTok and Instagram are liable under state laws prohibiting the "unreasonably dangerous" design of products, having allegedly "targeted, goaded and encouraged" Zackery to subway surf.

This enticement allegedly took the form of a video recommendation to Zackery about the "Subway Surfing Challenge" prior to his fatal subway surfing attempt.

"What happened to Zackery was neither an accident or a coincidence," Matthew Bergman, the co-founder of the Social Media Victims Law Center and legal representative for the Nazario family, told the Post. "It was a foreseeable result of social media companies' intentional decision to design their products to be addictive to young people.

So-called surfers and witnesses routinely post videos of the dangerous stunts to social media.

After Zackery's death, Janno Lieber, chair and CEO of the MTA, indicated that his organization had previously pressured social media companies about platforming videos showcasing subway surfing but would nevertheless double down on such efforts, reported The City.

"We're going to renew it again; this is something nobody wants to see," said Lieber. "A 15-year-old kid just breaks your heart, so we've got to keep pushing."

New York City Mayor Eric Adams drew attention to Zackery's fate and the dangers of subway surfing in June 2023, stressing, "Social media must be socially responsible. Subway Surfing kills. We need everyone to be a part of ending this dangerous threat."

City and state officials kicked off the " Subway Surfing Kills — Ride Inside, Stay Alive" campaign in September, warning minors about the hazards of flouting law and convention in pursuit of train-related thrills, posting cautionary signs throughout the transit systems and broadcasting similar warnings.

In addition to the alerts, police have reportedly stationed after-school patrols on subway lines identified as being high risks for subway surfing. The Times indicated the patrols have so far stopped roughly 11 attempts a month.

Norma Nazario, seeking unspecified damages from the MTA and the social media companies, told the Post, "They could give me a billion dollars and I'm not going to stop."

"I'm not going to stop until the MTA and these social media companies start taking responsibility and stop killing our children," added Nazario.

It appears the Nazario family and their legal representative are not displacing the entirety of the blame for the tragedy.

"Zackery has some responsibility too," Bergman told WABC. "No one is saying that there was not shared fault here, but what we are saying is that this didn't have to happen."

While the MTA did not respond to the Post's request for comment, NYC Transit President Richard Davey said in a statement, "We've said it over and over — do not climb on top of trains because that won't end well, and we implore parents to tell their children and friends to warn friends — avoid tragedy by riding inside."

WABC indicated TikTok and Instagram have reportedly not yet commented on the lawsuit.

Like Blaze News? Bypass the censors, sign up for our newsletters, and get stories like this direct to your inbox. Sign up here!

Want to leave a tip?

We answer to you. Help keep our content free of advertisers and big tech censorship by leaving a tip today.
Want to join the conversation?
Already a subscriber?
Joseph MacKinnon

Joseph MacKinnon

Joseph MacKinnon is a staff writer for Blaze News. He lives in a small town with his wife and son, moonlighting as an author of science fiction.
@HeadlinesInGIFs →