Boston University professor dies after apparent fall from staircase near JFK/UMass station

BOSTON — Boston University Associate Professor David Jones died Saturday during an apparent 20-foot fall through a dilapidated set of stairs connecting Columbia Road with Old Colony Avenue near the JFK/UMass MBTA station in Boston.

Jones’ wife said in a Facebook post that her husband left their home for a jog on Saturday and never returned.

“The void he leaves behind is almost unspeakable,” Sarah Sacuto wrote.

Massachusetts State Police said in a statement that a passerby found Jones’ body beneath the stair system at about 1:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon. The stair system is severely rusted, and it contains a huge gap just as the steep stairs ascend towards Columbia Road. It is believed Jones fell through that gap to his death.

The Massachusetts State Police said in a statement the stairs had been closed to the public for 20 months.

“We continue to look at how Dr. Jones accessed a stairway that had been closed for some 20 months,’’ DA Rachael Rollins said. “Whether accidental or intentional, any death is a tragedy and the harm to loved ones is the same. While the investigation is ongoing, we are available to offer his family support and connect them to community resources through our victim-witness assistance program.’’

“In truth I have no words to describe the devastation of this news,” Dean Dr. Sandro Galea said in the announcement. “And above all David was a wonderful human being, living with integrity and a deep commitment to all we do. I have loved all my interactions with David, I cannot really imagine what it means to not have David as part of our community.”

On Monday, wire fencing sealed the bottom of the stair system on Old Colony Avenue from the public. At the top of the stairs, at Columbia Road, a jersey barrier with a wire fence on top of it prevented people from taking the stairs. Signs warned the public of the danger posed by the stairs.

It is not clear what the area looked like on Saturday when Dr. Jones, an avid runner, was out for a run. It’s also unclear how he accessed the staircase. Google Earth Street images, recorded a year ago, show similar fencing, but less signage.

An MBTA spokesperson told Boston 25 News that the stair system is not on MBTA property. Another source told Boston 25 News the stair system is the responsibility of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation. The department replied to an inquiry from Boston 25 about what happened. They replied that the incident is under investigation.

Professor Jones was a respected and well-liked member of faculty and Boston University’s School of Public Health.

“There’s a lot of personal grief. There’s a lot of collective sadness. There’s a lot of introspection,” Dean Galea said in an interview adding that thoughts and prayers are with Jones’ loved ones.

“David was deeply devoted to his spouse, his kids, and his family. My heart goes out to them more than anything else,” he said.

“May we all live with intentionality and grace in honor of David’s memory.”

On Tuesday, a statement was released on behalf of Jones’ family:

Our lives were changed forever last weekend with the sudden, tragic and preventable passing of our beloved father, husband, son, brother David Kline Jones.

Our hope is that this unimaginable tragic loss will foster a renewed commitment to create safe and healthy environments for all people. David cared wholly and deeply about people, about communities, and about humanity. He knew that the love and care we have for each other is reflected in how safe and nurturing every community is. He advocated tirelessly for social and racial justice in his public health work, as well as in his community as a steering committee member of the Milton Anti-Racist Coalition.

David was a champion for high-quality equitable education and healthcare for all. Based on his thorough research, he wrote: “Overwhelming evidence suggests that education is one of the most important – if not the most important – factor shaping the opportunities that young people will have for a healthy life. Providing a high-quality education to all children is a critical step on the path to racial equity.”

David’s life was shaped by his kindness and compassion for others, and we are grateful for the lasting impact that he has made in his professional and personal relationships. In lieu of flowers and gifts, consider donating to a fund set up by his BU colleagues for David’s children https://gofund.me/4149b9c0

While we appreciate the interest and concern that has been shown in the past few days, we ask that you respect the privacy of David’s family and friends during this incredibly difficult time. We will have no further public statement at this time