Skip to main content

Two teens died ‘surfing’ BART trains. Their grieving mothers are begging people to stop

A woman gazes out a train window, trees blur past. She wears a maroon jacket, holding onto a rail, seemingly lost in thought.
Marina Baran looks out the window of a BART train car on the way to the Daly City station on Monday. Baran’s son, Daniel, is one of two teenagers who have died within the span of two weeks after attempting to “surf” BART trains between the Balboa Park and Daly City stations. | Source: Morgan Ellis/The Standard

Two teenagers died after falling from trains in San Francisco in the past two weeks. Now, their grieving mothers are sounding the alarm about a dangerous trend of young people climbing onto the top of BART trains and “surfing” them, and posting stunt videos on social media.

Marina Baran’s 19-year-old son, Daniel Baran, died on Jan. 29 after apparently climbing out of a BART train and falling onto tracks at the 14.3-mile marker near Balboa Park Station. On Sunday, a 15-year-old boy died at the 14.6-mile marker after apparently surfing the roof of another BART train, according to the boy’s mother. 

BART spokesperson Jim Allison confirmed both deaths happened between the Daly City and Balboa Park stations.

A woman sits on a bed for a photo portrait.
Marina Baran sits in her son Daniel’s room in her family’s Glen Park home in San Francisco on Monday. Daniel, 19, died Jan. 29 after apparently climbing out of a BART train and falling onto the tracks. | Source: Morgan Ellis/The Standard

Daniel Baran, a Skyline College history student and Lowell High School graduate, had ambitions to go to law school. His Instagram account showed he had previously climbed onto the roof of San Francisco State University’s dorm buildings. His mother thinks he may have been inspired by others doing similar daring stunts, which they shared on social media.

A young graduate in a maroon cap and gown holding a diploma, wearing a lei and medal, with a blurred background.
Daniel Baran graduated from Lowell High School in San Francisco. | Source: Courtesy Baran family

Baran says her son was last seen on BART surveillance climbing out of the train where the carriages meet and squeezing between two rubber spacers. He was not seen reentering the train, and his body was later found on the tracks. The family lives a few blocks from the Glen Park BART Station.

Three-tenths of a mile from where Daniel Baran’s body was found, the 15-year-old was discovered dead on Sunday. San Francisco Fire Department Lt. Mariano Elias told The Standard that firefighters responded to a report of an incident at 9:26 a.m. and met with BART police. With help from Daly City police, they used a department drone to capture an aerial view of the body, which was located on an elevated trackway.

The 15-year-old’s mother spoke to The Standard on condition of anonymity to protect her son’s identity but said he was the owner of an Instagram account that featured videos of the boy standing atop San Francisco skyscrapers, riding on the roof of Muni buses, venturing into Muni tunnels and surfing BART trains throughout 2023. His account featured the tagline, “I act like I have nine lives.”

In January, she saw footage on her son’s Instagram account showing him on the roof of a BART train, which he posted on Jan. 14. After she confronted him about the stunt, she took away his ability to post on his Instagram account and made him promise not to surf BART again. His most recent post showed him atop the Third Street Bridge with sushi on Jan. 23.

A photo shows the space between two BART train carriages.
The gap between BART train cars is visible on a train stopped at the Daly City station on Monday. | Source: Morgan Ellis/The Standard

Sunday’s fatal incident is one of three times she’s aware her son rode atop a BART train. 

She believes seeing videos on Instagram of others surfing on BART trains—as well as comments posted to a video of him atop a BART train uploaded to the Instagram account @bartactivities, one of which called him “the next Tom Cruise”—encouraged him to engage in the dangerous stunt. The @bartactivities account was contacted for comment but did not respond by publication time. The account has since deleted its BART surfing videos.

“What 15-year-old wouldn’t want attention like that?” the boy’s mother said.

In January, her son told her how easy it was to access the roof of BART trains and that he had even ridden through a BART tunnel atop the carriage, describing it as “sketch.”

A train at Daly City station with a person on the platform under a clear sky.
A BART train stops at the Daly City station on Monday. In less than a month, two teens have died after falling off BART trains. | Source: Morgan Ellis/The Standard

She said her son liked to climb on top of buildings and cranes. He also enjoyed rock climbing and bouldering since he was a small child.

The boy was passionate about science, memorizing the periodic table at age 5. He also had a deep interest in trains and cars and was considering a career as a mechanic. Active in Model United Nations, he was a skilled debater, and his peers encouraged him to explore a legal career. His mother said he had many friends at school and in Model U.N., but she would not name his high school. He lived in the Outer Mission near the Balboa Park BART Station.

Both mothers now want the public to know about the dangers of riding atop BART trains and want the transit agency to make it more difficult for people to access the roof of trains. 

Marina Baran said she had seen for herself how easy it was to open the door between train carriages and squeeze through onto the roof.

A woman stands inside of a BART car.
Marina Baran stands in a BART train car on the way to the Daly City station on Monday. Her 19-year-old son, Daniel Baran, died Jan. 29 after apparently climbing out of a BART train and falling onto the tracks. | Source: Morgan Ellis/The Standard

Gabriel Zubovsky, a friend of Daniel Baran’s, said the two bonded over their interest in math, science and cycling. He remembered Baran for his sense of humor.

“He was always telling jokes, making people laugh,” Zubovsky said. “He always wanted to cheer people up.”

Zubovsky also said Baran was a “thrill-seeker” with an affinity for daredevil stunts, including climbing a crane in January 2023.

Allison, the BART spokesperson, would not comment on how widespread the act of surfing trains is, when the fad began, or whether the agency had any plans to make it more difficult for passengers to access the top of trains. 

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni, said in an email statement that the 15-year-old’s death was “senseless and tragic” and that the agency is testing new equipment to prevent people from getting into Muni tunnels.

“We monitor and respond to all behavior at Muni stations and on Muni buses and trains,” an SFMTA spokesperson said in an email. “As videos and photos of so-called ‘surfing’ are spread by traditional and social media, too many kids are paying with their lives. We strongly discourage these reckless acts and urge media platforms to stop amplifying the content fueling them.”

Both bodies were turned over to San Francisco’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, which did not respond to requests for identification.

A woman sits for a photo portrait.
Marina Baran holds a photo of her son, Daniel Baran, in her San Francisco home on Monday. Daniel, 19, died Jan. 29 after apparently climbing out of a BART train and falling onto the tracks. | Source: Morgan Ellis/The Standard

Editor’s note: The name of one of the deceased’s Instagram accounts featuring videos of people riding atop trains has been removed from this article.

Garrett Leahy can be reached at
George Kelly can be reached at