Harbor being searched after man jumps off high-security pier into Port of LA shipping channel

Boat crews, dive teams and investigators working with sonar searched early today for a man who jumped off a high-security pier into a shipping channel in the Port of Los Angeles.

The unidentified man somehow got into the fenced cargo facility at Berth 197 and approached a longshoreman around 7:20 p.m. Thursday, said port spokesman Phillip Sanfield.

"He made a remark that someone was following him," Sanfield said early today. "Then he headed for the water and jumped off the pier."

It was dark by that time, Sanfield said, adding that there was a drop of about 15 feet from the pier to the water in the East Basin Channel.

At that moment the cargo ship United Spirit, which carries Nissan vehicles, was docking in the area with the assistance of at least one tug boat pilot, Sanfield said.

"The tug boat operator saw the man in the water," Sanfield said. "The man went under, and he has not been seen since."

About 50 personnel were involved in the search early today, Sanfield said. Agencies involved included the Los Angeles Fire Department, Los Angeles police, Los Angeles Port Police and the U.S. Coast Guard.

"We're in a support role for the other lead agencies," Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Tyler Stutin said early today from the port area. "We did have boat crews and at least one aircraft involved. Right now it's scaled back to recovery mode."

Other boat crews and dive teams remained on scene today while investigators worked with a remotely operated sonar device to search underwater, Stutin said.

Coast Guard investigators were also trying to determine how the man got into the secure facility, Stutin said.

Earlier reports from authorities of a man overboard from the car-carrying ship were incorrect, Sanfield said.