A man who fell 40m to his death while having his photo taken in Christchurch was believed to have been with his carers when he slipped and plunged down a cliff.

Darryl Richard Kitto, fell from a spot popular with sightseers overlooking the Rakaia River on the Methven side of Rakaia Gorge Rd on Sunday afternoon.

Mr Kitto, who had an intellectual disability and was under the care of community mental health service Emerge Aotearoa, was believed to have been with his carers when the incident occurred. It is understood the woman taking the photos was one of his carers.

The 47-year-old had had a first picture taken and had then repositioned himself for another photo when he lost his footing.


Senior Constable Andy Grant of Darfield police said: "He's gone to step down a two-foot embankment on to about a 10-foot flat grass section and he's obviously tripped or lost his balance and fallen over the edge down a steep grass and bush slope which leads to the river to his death."

Members of the group were traumatised by the incident and would receive help from victim support.

Mr Kitto's closest surviving family member, aunt Noeline Devlin, said she believed her nephew had always been "a happy guy".

"He knew exactly what was going on around him. I don't know what his condition was because it wasn't that he couldn't have a conversation with you or anything like that. He was quite capable of that.

"I think he was always excited when he came down to Dunedin and saw people from his past." The last time she had seen her nephew was at his father, Richard Kitto's funeral last year.

"He did become close to his father, and his carer and him used to come down and visit him. They were sort of getting back together and I know Darryl had wanted to come back to Dunedin.

"We had a talk [at the funeral] and I talked to his carer and everything and that was the last time I heard from him. [We talked] about family and just things in general."

Ms Devlin said Richard's passing had been tough on Mr Kitto.

Mr Kitto had been the last surviving member of his immediate family. His mother, Cheryl, had died of cancer in 2008 and his brother, Gavin, of a heart attack in 2003.

"That is the whole family gone."

Ms Devlin said she believed Mr Kitto had worked in a supermarket bringing in trolleys in Christchurch.

"He was under IHC New Zealand - provider of services to people with intellectual disabilities - and he had carers who were looking after him."

In a statement Emerge Aotearoa chief executive Barbara Disley told media the incident was being investigated and it was inappropriate to comment further. "At this stage our focus is on supporting the people who were close to him and the people who were with him at the time."