Mother of teen killed subway surfing files lawsuit against TikTok, Meta, MTA

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Wednesday, February 21, 2024
Mother of teen killed while subway surfing sues TikTok and Meta
Kristin Thorne has more.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The mother of a 15-year-old Manhattan boy who died subway surfing has filed a lawsuit against TikTok, Meta and the MTA.

"Social media and the MTA, they failed my son," Norma Nazario, of the East Village, told Eyewitness News investigative reporter Kristin Thorne.

Nazario's son Zackery Nazario died February 20, 2023 while subway surfing on a Brooklyn-bound J train over the Williamsburg Bridge.

A low beam struck Zackery in the head causing him to fall between the subway cars. He was then run over by the train.

After Zackery's death, Norma Nazario found on his social media accounts many videos of subway surfing. He also had received an ad for a ski mask, which young people often wear while subway surfing in order to hide their identities.

"Zackery was addicted to social media by design and affirmatively directed to challenge videos encouraging subway surfing," Matthew Bergman, Nazario's lawyer, said.

Bergman is the founding attorney of the Social Media Victims Law Center which is pursuing hundreds of similar lawsuits against the social media giants.

Bergman said the algorithms on the social media platforms kept feeding Zackery subway surfing videos.

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

Nazario is also suing the MTA for not locking the subway doors, which allowed Zackery to climb atop the subway train.

"Given the profusion of subway surfing that was going on, they did not take efforts to prevent it," Bergman said of the MTA.

MTA President Richard Daley said in a statement to Eyewitness News, "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."

Eyewitness News also reached out to TikTok and Meta about Nazario's lawsuit, but did not hear back.

Last summer, when another teenage boy was killed subway surfing, TikTok told Eyewitness News that subway surfing predates their platform and, "More than 40,000 safety professionals are dedicated to keeping our community safe and work diligently to remove harmful content when found."

On Tuesday - exactly one year after Zackery's death - Zackery's family and friends held a memorial march across the Williamsburg Bridge. At 6:45 p.m., which is believed to be the moment of Zackery's death, they released balloons into the air.

Nazario said she has a message for teenagers who may be thinking about subway surfing.

"It's not worth it," she said. "Your mother is going to suffer just like me."

Last September, New York City and the MTA launched an awareness program called, "Subway Surfing Kills - Ride Inside, Stay Alive."

As the school year gets underway, New York City is launching a push to draw attention to the deadly consequences of subway surfing. Anthony Carlo has the details.


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