LOS ANGELES — A suspected car thief plummeted to his death Wednesday night, hours after climbing onto a crane at the Port of Los Angeles following a reckless pursuit that spanned multiple cities and involved several agencies, officials said.
The man fell off the crane, located at Berth 100, about 9:20 p.m. Within minutes, emergency personnel could be seen placing a white sheet over his body, Sky5 aerial video showed.
He fell about 160 feet and was pronounced dead at the scene, according to a Los Angeles Fire Department alert.
It was unclear if the the man had jumped, or if the tumble was accidental.
Prior to the fatal fall, the man had exhibited bizarre behavior while atop the crane tower, at times doing handstands and crunches while continuing to evade police, aerial video showed. At some point, he also stripped naked.
Before climbing onto the crane, the man could be seen driving in and out of lanes at the port in a white 2018 Subaru, according to the footage.
The stolen SUV had paper plates and had a tracking device that authorities used to find it.
The incident began about 3:10 p.m., when the Los Angeles Police Department received a call about a vehicle being stolen out of San Bernardino, LAPD Officer Tony Im told KTLA.
Officials were in pursuit of the SUV earlier, but lost it on a freeway. Torrance police later picked it up, but called off the pursuit; the SUV was then chased by Long Beach police, Im said.
After driving erratically through lanes at the port, the man got out of the SUV and began climbing the stairs of a crane tower at the West Basin Container Terminal, sometimes backwards. The man then broke a window and climbed into a hole in the crane then continued walking around, in an effort to avoid police.
At times the man sat on the crane and appeared to stretch, do crunches, handstands and dangled his feet over the ledge of the crane, aerial video showed. He eventually took off his shoes, shirt, pants and was naked by nightfall.
Meanwhile, police surrounded the area and tried to convince the man to surrender.
Authorities have not yet released his name.
Patrick Bates, a crane operator who works for yard, told KTLA that the man was on the tallest crane in the harbor before he fell.
Bates said he was leaving work when he passed the man who was involved in the pursuit.
“I knew something bad was happening,” Bates said.
“It was unbelievable, the height of that, it takes your breath away, I don’t care how long you’ve been doing it,” he said referring to the crane. “He was up there doing things that I just could not believe.”