BOSTON (AP) – A 22-year-old New Zealand man was killed when he jumped into a subway track pit to grab some coins and brushed against the electrified third rail.

Matthew Gallagher was pulled out of the track pit at Haymarket station by a bystander and a friend, who tried to revive him. He was later pronounced dead at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“This is an unimaginable tragedy that will stay with subway and police personnel for a very long time,” said MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo. “It’s our sincere wish that a senseless incident like this is never repeated.”

Gallagher and his friend, Craig Jonas, had just left a bar early Friday when they spotted some coins on the track, according to accounts Jonas gave to authorities and a friend.

Jonas jumped down and emerged with 11 cents. But as he was climbing out, he heard Gallagher shout after hitting the third rail.

The rail carries 600 volts of electricity, which powers the trains and their electrical systems.

Officials said that all Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority track pits with electrified rails have signs that say in red capital letters, “no trespassing, danger third rail.”

Gallagher had never been in a subway system like Boston’s and would not have been familiar with the idea of an electrified third rail, Gallagher’s mother, Gay, told the Boston Globe, who reached her by telephone in her home in Howick, New Zealand.

“It was just a dopey thing to do, wasn’t it?” Gay Gallagher said. “He didn’t think about the dangers, did he? If he had known of the danger, I’m sure he wouldn’t have done that.

“He was certainly a fine son,” she said. “We were very proud of him.”

Pesaturo said Gallagher and Jonas, also from New Zealand, had just finished spending the summer working at Camp Modin in Belgrade, Maine, where Gallagher taught water skiing and Jonas was a swimming instructor, according to Howard Salzman, director and owner of the camp.

“It does not appear that they were seeking a thrill, but merely killing time and did not realize the danger,” Salzman said later in an e-mail to the Globe. “Craig told me that he never saw a sign warning of the electrified rail.”

Salzman told the Globe that Jonas was too traumatized to speak to a reporter.

Gallagher had a bachelor’s degree in marketing management from a university near his home. He also enjoyed numerous sports, including hockey, volleyball and sailing.

The trip to the United States was part of a New Zealand tradition called OE, or overseas experience, during which young men and women leave the island to tour the world, usually before returning home and settling down, Gay Gallagher said.

His mother said that the day before he died, her son wrote an e-mail to her about a visit to the Harvard campus that had him thinking about continuing his education.

“His experience there had really inspired him,” she said.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.