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My son’s death was preventable. Fix the T. Lives depend on it.

Boston University associate professor David K. Jones died Sept. 11, 2021, after falling from the closed rusted staircase that connected Columbia Road and Old Colony Avenue at the JFK/UMass T station. The stairs were removed about a week later.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

My son was killed on Sept. 11, 2021, when he fell through a rusted staircase at the MBTA’s JFK/UMass station. His name was David K. Jones, and he was an associate professor at the Boston University School of Public Health.

David’s death was preventable. The stairway was not properly labeled as unsafe, nor had the rusted staircase with its missing stairs been properly secured or removed. Many months prior to his death these stairs had been identified to be a safety hazard. Immediately after his death, the stairs were finally made inaccessible to the public, and about a week later, they were completely removed.


Nothing can bring my son back to life. We as a family grieve for him daily. His goodness and brilliance are forever lost to his three young children, his wife, his family, friends, Boston, and indeed the world.

That is why it is with great horror that I read about other deaths and accidents that have occurred under the leadership of Governor Charlie Baker, Transportation Secretary Jamey Tesler, MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak, and Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey Gonneville (now interim general manager of the T). These leaders have not done what is necessary to ensure that the T is a high reliability organization.

I was further horrified and traumatized to read last month that 12 of the 20 improvement plans submitted by T leaders to the Federal Transit Administration were rejected by the FTA, which had issued a scathing report in August. I believe it is not a matter of if more people who interact with the T system will be injured or killed but rather when.

David wrote a book that was undergoing peer review at the time of his death. Sadly, his death underscores one of the main points of the soon-to-be-published book: Individuals, especially those who are marginalized, suffer tragic consequences when leaders of institutions fail to provide safe, healthy environments.


I implore Governor Maura Healey, who took office Thursday, to do what Baker, who has been referred to as a fixer, failed to accomplish: Fix the MBTA. Lives depend on it.

Debra Bingham


The writer holds a doctor of public health degree, is the CEO of the Institute for Perinatal Quality Improvement, and is a retired associate professor for health care quality and safety at the University of Maryland School of Nursing.