The woman who dropped a box of crickets and worms on the floor of a crowded D train this week, sparking widespread panic and mayhem in the car, is a self-proclaimed "actress" who orchestrated the incident as part of a viral "prank."
Zaida Pugh, an "Actress, Singer&Model," according to her Facebook page, admitted to reporters that she dressed up as a homeless woman selling crickets onboard a D train during rush hour on Wednesday night. A second party recorded the incident—in which teenagers knocked the box out of her hand, sending the bugs scattering—in hopes of getting it to go viral. “I have been doing these pranks for four years now," Pugh told the Post. "This was to show what homeless people go through and how people treat them."
Indeed, Pugh's made a number of "viral" pranks, including one in which she faked stabbing a baby to get "revenge" on her ex-boyfriend. But the D train incident was particularly disturbing according to people onboard the train—especially since someone pulled an emergency brake in the midst of the madness, trapping straphangers on the Manhattan Bridge with the bugs for nearly half an hour. "It just makes it worse that this is all a big hoax," Chris Calabrese, who was onboard the train with his girlfriend, told Gothamist. He pointed out that the air-conditioning turned off when the brake was pulled, and people in the car were panicked. "My girlfriend has asthma, it was 110 degrees, there were elderly people, a few children, a pregnant woman. What happens if the pregnant woman gets hit and loses her baby, what if people have panic or asthma attacks?"
Calabrese said he didn't realize the incident was a hoax at the time, but he did notice a person filming Pugh before she dropped the box. "All I heard was, 'Excuse me ladies and gentlemen,' and I realized someone in the back was filming her with flash on," Calabrese said. "I thought that was odd, I was wondering why someone already had a camera in her face with flash on, but now I know that's her cameraman."
Pugh—who also urinated on the floor, attempted to throw up, and attempted to defecate in the car—told Reuters she didn't care if people were angry with her for the hoax. "Of course they'll be angry with me, but I guess I'm just doing me. I'm waking people up with my shows, my acts," she said. Calabrese, who is the vice president of a small staffing and recruiting firm in the city, said he's had enough of her pranks. "Whenever her 15 minutes are up, I'd gladly like to help her find a job, because this needs to end," he said.
Pugh, who was taken to a hospital for "evaluation" following the incident, has not been arrested. Reuters reports that police have not yet had any complaints about the incident being a prank.