Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Man Electrocutes Self, Dies Peeing on NYC Subway’s ‘Third Rail’

Mathew Zeno

Mathew Zeno

For those of you who always wondered what would happen if someone were to urinate on the subway’s fabled “third rail,” the late Matthew Zeno discovered the answer: You die, and anyone with you might die too.

It’s a tale told to scare teens riding between cars or walking the subway rails at night, “Did you hear about the guy that grabbed the ‘third rail?’ His hands were fried off!” What guy? What’s the “third rail?” For those of you not in the know, the third rail is the electrified rail that provides the juice for each NYC subway train to run. Most people don’t think about it too much, but many on discovering its existence, wonder what would happen if someone were to pee on said rail. Well, unfortunately, thanks to Matthew Zeno, 30, drunk and should’ve known better, we now know: you die.

Around 3:10 a.m. on the morning of July 8, 2013, Zeno and a friend, who just had left a bar, were walking along the southbound track of the G train. At Union Avenue and Broadway in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Zeno decided to take a leak on the track and either intentionally or mistakenly nailed the third rail. He was pronounced dead at the hospital. His friend was also shocked, but managed to flag down some transit workers who called for help. The friend survived and was reported in stable condition at Woodhull Hospital.

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