A male climber who ignored warning signs and spikes on a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. transmission tower near downtown Santa Rosa Tuesday suffered burns from high‑voltage shocks, and fell about 80 feet, causing a grass fire and brief power outage.
The tower is along the Prince Memorial Greenway path near Sixth Street. The man, who Santa Rosa police Wednesday were attempting to identify, had gone up about 80 feet of the 100‑foot‑tower and was on a cross arm when he came in contact a 115‑kilovolt line.
About 1:45 p.m., a loud noise like a huge power surge stopped electrician Bryan Hanson who was working at the nearby 6th Street Playhouse. Hanson and others ran outside to see what had happened and looked up at the tower, seeing smoke.
Then they realized there was a person.
“He was screaming. His clothes and his hair were on fire,” Hanson said. “I saw him get two, three jolts. His body was gyrating. Then he fell. He hit the first rung on the tower and then he started cartwheeling.”
The burning man landed on the ground and flames spread to the dried grass. Hanson and others pulled him away while others who had grabbed fire extinguishers from the theater put out the flames.
The victim suffered burns to about 75 percent of his body, massive trauma from the fall and likely serious injuries from the electrical shock, said Santa Rosa Fire Battalion Chief Mark Basque.
He carried no identification and initially was believed to be a teen. Officials later Wednesday said he was Latino in his mid-to-late 20s. He was taken by ambulance to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital then flown by medical helicopter to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.
Anyone with information about the man’s identity is asked to contact Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Jeneane Kucker at 707-543-4019.
The PG&E transmission tower holds 115-kilovolt lines and the incident knocked out power to about 2,200 customers in a wide swath of Santa Rosa.
The tower has attracted other illegal climbers.
In June 2016 a man who climbed the tower was talked down by police officers, Basque said. Another person got up into the transmission tower in March.
The utility company then made it more difficult, removing a section of climbing steps used by workers, adding short metal spikes to a stretch of the tower’s legs and putting up additional warning signs, PG&E spokeswoman Lynsey Paulo said Wednesday.
“These are high voltage power lines and very dangerous. That’s why all those warnings are there,” Paulo said. “It’s really important people heed those warning signs. Only authorized PG&E personal are allowed to enter.”
You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 707‑521-5412 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter@rossmannreport.
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