A giant, inflatable flamingo raft carrying three men inched down the Los Angeles River on Monday, carried by the slow current of rainwater captured in the basin. It could've been a scene from any lazy river at an amusement park, but in true L.A. pursuit fashion, helicopters hovered overhead.
Police, curious about the chopper, called in about 1 p.m. to see what had captured the news crew's interest, Vernon police Lt. Jerry Winegar said. They were told a pink flamingo — large enough to carry three YouTube attention seekers — had floated down the flood channel from Boyle Heights to just north of South Downey Road in Vernon.
At that point, the officers didn't know whether it was a prank gone perilously wrong that might require a water rescue, or just a prank that needed to be deflated, police said.
So officers wheeled their cruiser along the concrete river wall, parallel to Downey Road. The officers got out and called out to the three men sprawled on the massive raft, taking in the sun.
Last week, three men attempted something similar. The group constructed a raft from eight inflatable mattresses and drifted 15 miles down the river. The adventure was recorded and posted on YouTube on Thursday and has since garnered almost 30,000 views. Like many car chase suspects, who thought they could outsmart and outmaneuver law enforcement, they were unable to evade cops.
It's unclear whether the new pranksters are copycats or repeat offenders. But a blond man with dreadlocks in the video closely resembled one of the flamingo assailants.
Winegar ticks off the dangers of going into the L.A. River: First, it's a criminal offense that could land offenders with a trespassing charge, he said. Second, it's dangerous.
"It's not like other rivers were there's a dirt bottom," he said. "It's concrete and it's slippery."
Search and rescue crews have had to pull many people — and bodies — from the river, because they underestimated its power. Today, however, the waters were calm and slow.
The officers didn't use spike strips to puncture the flamingo. They just asked the men to let out the air.