08/17/2017 13:36 EDT | Updated 08/17/2017 17:38 EDT

LA Car Thief Dies After Falling Off Crane During Police Chase

The situation lasted several hours.

LOS ANGELES — A suspected car thief led police on a chase across Los Angeles before he ditched the vehicle and climbed to the top of a loading crane at the city's port, dangling over edges and stripping naked before falling to his death.

The man fell about 160 feet to the ground and died about three hours after he first scaled the crane Wednesday night. It's not clear whether he slipped or jumped deliberately, Los Angeles fire officials said.

Police in Los Angeles spotted the car reported stolen from a dealership in San Bernardino, and an hours-long chase ensued, the LAPD said.

Several television stations broadcast the chase live, showing the SUV swerving at high speed through freeway traffic in L.A. and Long Beach, sometimes crossing into oncoming lanes.

The man climbed up the crane and stripped his clothes off.

He drove into the vast complex of the Port of Los Angeles and drove into a terminal, circling back and forth under giant loading cranes and next to a docked ship before jumping out of the still-moving SUV and racing up the stairs of the crane. He broke a window and climbed into the crane cab, then climbed out, walked to the end of the crane over water as darkness fell.

Port workers stopped their labour and watched the scene, some with binoculars.

Police waited below for him for hours, worried that if they approached he might slip or jump.

As news helicopters hovered above, he shed his Lakers jersey and shoes, then later took off the rest of his clothes. He dangled and nearly fell several times before eventually plunging to the ground.

"Our officers were nowhere near to close proximity of the suspect at the time that he fell," Detective Meghan Aguilar said.

Police and other first responders tried to talk the man down for several hours.

The man's name has not been released.

Eric Nosser, a salesman at the Subaru dealership the SUV was stolen from, says he steered clear of the man.

"I let him be, because he seemed on edge," Nosser told KNBC-TV. "I figured he'd just kind of walk off and go about his business."

Instead the man found an SUV with the keys in it, got inside and took off.

More from HuffPost Canada:

Photo gallery Thieves Showcased Crimes On Facebook See Gallery