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Man dies of drug overdose at downtown San Francisco BART station

BART police officer Eric Hofstein makes his way down the stairs to patrol the Civic Center BART station platform in San Francisco on Nov. 20, 2020. | Source: Jessica Christian/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

A man died Monday morning after an apparent overdose at a Downtown San Francisco BART station, officials said.

Police responded to a report of someone needing medical attention on the stairs at the Fifth and Market streets’ entrance to the Powell Street BART Station at 5:24 a.m.

Officers found an unresponsive man with his head between his legs and administered Narcan, an overdose reversal treatment.

San Francisco Fire Department paramedics arrived and attempted to save the man’s life. He was later pronounced dead at the scene. There is no suspicion of foul play, BART police said.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner identified him Tuesday as Clovis Bessard, 44, of no fixed address.

The death marks the transit system’s second suspected overdose death within three weeks at a Downtown San Francisco BART station, following an Aug. 1 death aboard an Antioch-bound train at the Embarcadero BART station.

The incident comes as state Sen. Scott Wiener, who represents San Francisco, is due to tour BART trains, stations and police facilities on Tuesday afternoon.

BART General Manager Bob Powers will join Wiener on a ride from San Francisco’s Civic Center Station to West Oakland Station while sharing “improvements to safety and security and to discuss transit accountability measures,” according to a statement from Wiener’s office on Friday.

A BART passenger smokes crystal methamphetamine while riding the train through San Francisco on Feb. 23, 2023. | Source: Paul Kuroda for The Standard

Seven people died on the BART system in the first three months of the year, according to data obtained from a public records request. Nearly all were due to suspected overdoses. Overdose deaths are on track to surge this year on BART.

BART is not the only transit system dealing with the twin crises of homelessness and drug addiction, but it stands apart in its struggle to get ridership back to pre-pandemic levels. Concerns around safety on the trains are front of mind for potential BART passengers, according to a survey of riders.

Official BART policy dictates that when a BART employee encounters someone suffering from an apparent overdose, they are required to summon responders through its dispatch system and provide medical aid, which can include administering the overdose-reversal drug naloxone, often known as Narcan.

A BART train stops at the Embarcadero BART Station in San Francisco on June 6. | Source: Isaac Ceja/The Standard

Overdose deaths on BART are generally categorized as “unattended deaths,” defined as a situation where a physician is not present to sign a death certificate.

Unattended deaths on BART property have gradually ticked up over the past few years, in line with the growing severity of the fentanyl crisis.

Last year’s 19 deaths are almost double the 11 unattended deaths on BART in 2021, a slight increase from the 10 people found dead on the system in 2020. In 2019, BART reported 12 such deaths.