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A man who scaled a 200-foot Seattle City Light transmission tower in Ballard was killed early Friday when he apparently came in contact with a 120,000-volt line, resulting in a bright flash, an explosion and a fiery 50-foot plunge to a platform below.

The identity of the victim has not been released.

Police, firefighters and Seattle City Light crews responded to the tower near Third Avenue Northwest and Northwest Leary Way about 12:20 a.m. after neighbors reported the blast and a fire.

Witnesses told police they had seen a man climbing the tower and then saw a large flash and explosion, which City Light spokesman Peter Clarke said is consistent with a short-circuit of a high-tension line.

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Witnesses said the man fell to a platform at the 150-foot level of the tower.

Concerned a short-circuit might have electrified the entire metal tower, the Seattle Fire Department initially called in a helicopter from the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office for an aerial survey, and the unresponsive victim was spotted on the platform.

He was determined to be dead at the scene.

City Light had to cut power to the circuit while a Seattle Fire Department Technical Rescue Team recovered the body and a cellphone and baseball cap apparently belonging to the victim.

Clarke said City Light was able to reroute power and only a single house lost electricity.

Police and City Light crews were investigating how the man gained access to the tower because there is no ladder at ground level.

Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or

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