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EDITORIAL

Robinson Lalin’s family deserves answers about the Red Line accident that killed him — and compassion, too

Details about the circumstances of Lalin’s death have been slow in coming, and so have condolences to his family.

Kelvin Lalin, the nephew of Robinson Lalin, holds a sign that reads “The MBTA slaughtered my uncle . . . safety over profits!” while standing next to a memorial that he set up outside the entry gates to the Broadway Red Line, on April 14.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

The National Transportation Safety Board should release its preliminary report into the horrific accident that killed a Boston man at the MBTA’s Broadway station on April 10 as quickly as possible. The family of Robinson Lalin, 39 — the victim who died — deserves to know more, and so does the T-riding public.

In the meantime, this tragedy also highlights the need for more compassionate outreach to grieving families by state and federal authorities. And that includes a protocol for relatives to privately access surveillance video that might be hard to watch but could make it easier to process what happened to their loved one.

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So far, the NTSB investigation has produced only one nugget of information for public consumption: that Lalin was exiting an inbound Red Line train when he somehow got stuck in the door, was dragged a short distance, and died as a result. Little else is known. “The investigation is ongoing. It is still very early in the investigation and there is no new information available for release at this time,” NTSB investigator Keith Holloway told the Globe editorial board via e-mail. “The next release of information will come in the form of a preliminary report which may possibly be issued within the next couple of weeks.”

MBTA general manager Steve Poftak addressed the accident publicly for the first time at the April 28 MBTA board of directors meeting, expressing “my condolences and condolences on behalf of the entire MBTA.” Poftak also told board members what the T has been saying since the accident: that the agency has been directed by the NTSB not to release any information about it until the NTSB investigation is complete.

When the editorial board asked Holloway if that meant the T can’t say anything at all — including “Sorry” — he said, via e-mail: “They can communicate about the operations of their system.” T spokesman Joe Pesaturo said that MBTA Transit Police expressed condolences to family members when they informed them of Robinson’s death. Poftak did it 18 days after the accident. The Baker administration’s priority was to put out a statement about how much it has increased MBTA investment.

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Kelvin Lalin, the victim’s nephew, said that to his knowledge, the family heard nothing from the T once they were told of Robinson Lalin’s death: “Not a phone call. Not a letter. Not an e-mail. The only thing we received was the terrible news we got from the Transit Police the day of the accident,” he said during a telephone interview. Pesaturo said he would check to see if any further contact was made with the family, but did not come back with any more information. One lawyer who works on cases involving the T told WBUR he doesn’t know of any instance where the agency reached out to an injured party, but he thinks it can be done even in the face of expected litigation. “As long as you’re not saying, for example, ‘I’m sorry that I was negligent and that someone suffered injury,’ you’re not making an admission,” said David White, of the Boston firm of Breakstone, White, and Gluck. “But to simply say, ‘I’m sorry. I’m very sorry. Our condolences, our sympathies,’ there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.”

Kelvin Lalin also said the family would like to see surveillance video, which the NTSB has already reviewed. According to Holloway, the NTSB has an office called Transportations Disaster Assistance that provides investigative information to families of victims. Lalin said he was contacted for the first time by that federal agency on Thursday. Again, it shouldn’t be that hard, or take that long.

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Following the accident, the T insisted that the public transportation system is safe, despite the slow pace of replacing its older Red Line cars with new models. As reported by the Globe, the T awarded a contract to the Chinese-owned CRRC to build 252 Red Line cars and 152 new Orange Line cars. Only eight new Red Line cars have been completed so far. As the Globe has also reported, the car involved in Lalin’s death was put into service in 1969 or 1970. Experts have also told the Globe that doors on MBTA cars are supposed to reopen if obstructed, and trains should not accelerate if doors are not fully closed.

Poftak told board members that the T is also conducting its own internal review of the accident and will ultimately share all its findings with the public. Right now, everything is on hold until the NTSB completes its job.

While this accident took the life of one man, the public has a major interest in the still-mysterious circumstances of his death. As Stacy Thompson, executive director of Livable Streets, told the Globe shortly after the accident, “It should be really, really hard for someone to get hurt, or die, getting on or off the T.”

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In this case, someone did. His family deserves to know how and why and so does the public, as soon as possible.


Editorials represent the views of the Boston Globe Editorial Board. Follow us on Twitter at @GlobeOpinion.