Home » Ex-subway surfer’s grave warning for thrill-seekers 10 years after being bloodied, blinded by risky stunt

Ex-subway surfer’s grave warning for thrill-seekers 10 years after being bloodied, blinded by risky stunt

by Ghassan

By Joshua Rhett Miller

(MAINNEWS) – Isa Islam wanted a quick and cheap thrill — but subway surfing nearly led the rookie risk-taker to an early grave.

Islam, then 17, lost his left eye in November 2013 after his head slammed into a metal beam as he clung to the top of an F train barreling into the Fourth Avenue-Ninth Street station in Park Slope. It was the first, and last, time the teen went subway surfing.

Nearly 10 years later, Islam, now 27, spoke to The Post in an exclusive interview — warning kids about the thrill ride that could have killed him: “It’s so deadly, it’s basically attempted murder on yourself, you know what I mean?”

The MTA said last week that reports of people riding outside of trains more than quadrupled from 206 in 2021 to 928 last year. Subway surfing has also led to two deaths in the past three months: Zackery Nazario, 15, died last week after hitting his head while crossing the Williamsburg Bridge atop a J train, and in December, Ka’Von Wooden, also 15, died on the same bridge after falling from a J train onto the third rail.

MTA officials claim viral clips on TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram and other platforms during the spring and summer of 2022 contributed to the latest spike in daredevils trying out the stunt.

Brooklynite Islam said he wishes he could reconsider his decision to ride atop trains. “If there’s anyone that’s in need of a time machine, it would be me,” he said.
Stefano Giovannini

“Some surfers plainly do it because they just wanna go viral,” said Rey, a 17-year-old from The Bronx who claimed he’s played the dangerous game hundreds of times, primarily on elevated tracks in Queens.

He admitted that viral clip play a critical role in the culture — and often leads to copycats.

“So, deleting vids of surfing trains is definitely probably the right approach,” Rey said of recent calls by the MTA to remove the footage from social media platforms.

Multiple deaths and injuries have happened to people subway surfing on trains crossing the Williamsburg Bridge.

Islam then spent more than a month in the hospital, ultimately being discharged on Christmas Eve, nearly six weeks after his accident. He lost his left eye and has had “multiple, multiple reconstructive surgeries” in ensuing years, most recently in 2019.

“My intentions to get an adrenaline rush nearly rushed myself into the casket, man,” said Islam, who is now legally blind.

In June 2022, a teen was left clinging to life after a subway surfing accident on a 7 train in Queens.

He added the haphazard stunt easily embodies the biggest regret of his young life. Islam been sharing that lesson since 2019 to youngsters nationwide as a motivational speaker for Breaking the Cycle, a New York state-based nonprofit that spreads a “message of nonviolent conflict resolution,” according to its website.

Eric Rivera, 14, of the Bronx, died while subway surfing in late 2019. “I don’t understand how this stuff keeps going on,” his mother told the Post
Courtesy of Maritza Santos

Maritza Santos, 44, of the Bronx, is also keenly aware of the dangers associated with subway surfing. Her 14-year-old son, Eric Rivera, died in November 2019 while riding atop a train in Queens. She struggles to comprehend why kids keep taking the same risky rides.

“I don’t understand how this stuff keeps going on,” Santos said. “They’re brains aren’t fully developed. So, when they’re doing it, they’re not thinking about their life. They’re just thinking about the fun.”

Santos, who has three other sons, visits Eric’s grave once a month to mark his Nov. 23 death, which should serve as a stern lesson to other would-be subway surfers, she said.

Rivera is now buried at St. Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx.
Courtesy of Maritza Santos

“Don’t do it,” Santos told The Post. “It ain’t worth your life. The fun for the moment isn’t worth it.”

Santos called on MTA officials and the NYPD to figure out a better way to keep renegade surfers from riding outside the trains, suggesting an alarm system might work as a deterrent.

The MTA said last week that reports of people riding outside of trains more than quadrupled from 206 in 2021 to 928 last year.
West Side Rag

“They have to figure out some way to prevent them from going on top of the train,” Santos said.

Teen subway surfers told The Post they are still mourning the death of Wooden, the 15-year-old from the Bronx who died on Dec. 1.

“Ka’Von was a nice kid, man,” Anthony, a 16-year-old from The Bronx, told The Post. “Ka’Von was very into transit — he always talked about trains and how he liked them.”

Wooden, who was autistic, was a “railfan,” Anthony said, or someone fascinated with all facets of trains. His tragic demise has prompted some friends to reassess their next possible subway adventure.

“After Ka’Von, I stopped surfing,” Anthony said. “I realized it wasn’t worth the thrill and the feeling.”

Anthony now considers himself “retired” from the trend, he said.

Rey, meanwhile, is thinking about giving it up after the two most recent deaths.

Zackery Nazario, 15, of Manhattan, died on Feb. 20 while subway surfing across the Williamsburg Bridge, police said.

“Imma be done or at least try to quit,” he told The Post. “But it’s a low-key addiction … maybe I’ll do it once or twice more, who knows.

“The adrenaline you get from it is unmatched,” he added, citing the rush he feels seeing his reflection on buildings while he rides past them on elevated tracks

The Williamsburg Bridge, where Rey has had a close call himself, is especially dangerous due to its many low-hanging beams, he said. One of his friends, a 16-year-old from the Bronx named JJ, fractured his skull but survived while surfing atop a J train on Dec. 13, Rey claimed.

Rey, a 17-year-old subway surfer from the Bronx, rides atop a 7 train at the 34th Street-Hudson Yards subway station in Manhattan.

The MTA is now looking to “alter the trajectory” of subway surfing, the transportation agency’s chairman, Janno Lieber, said during a board meeting Thursday.

Cops have been “staking out” stations where daredevils tend to start their journey, Lieber said, including elevated lines in Queens and over the Williamsburg Bridge.

Lieber also accused social media platforms of romanticizing the “incredibly dangerous behavior” by allowing clips to stay online. The MTA chairman said he was “optimistic” about upcoming meetings with a handful of social media platforms to address the issue.

“They’re glamorizing it and they’re encouraging it,” Lieber said. “In my heart, they’re contributing to kids dying. In my heart, I know that.”

Islam, meanwhile, urged anyone in search of a quick rush to consider other options than riding atop trains.

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“Go to a freakin’ amusement park, go where there’s seatbelts,” he told The Post. “Go where you have more of a guarantee to return how you entered. But up there, there’s no promises.”

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