The 9-year-old killed when the car he was in was swept down a river was an "extrovert who would go out of his way to talk to anyone he met", his family says.

Kayde Anderson was in a ute with three men when it was swept down the flooded Clyde River in Canterbury on Sunday.

The ute rolled several times and became stuck in the middle of the river, trapping the Dunsandel boy inside.

The Anderson family described the boy as "unique due to his quirky humour and outlook on life", Stuff reported.

Advertisement

The statement said he was an "outgoing and adventurous child with an inquisitive nature".

"Best described as unique due to his quirky humour and outlook on life, Kayde was an avid reader of books, collector of strange or different items (rocks, necklaces, bullet shells etc), especially Lego, building weird and wonderful things," Stuff reported.

"He loved being outdoors with his older brother and dad. Kayde was an extrovert who would go out of his way to talk to anyone he met and share his views or ask questions of them. He loved hugs and cuddles."

The family said they were "devastated" by the loss of their "much loved and adored" son and brother.

The river is in the Ashburton Lakes area.

Garden City Helicopters general manager Simon Duncan said a personal locator beacon was activated after the vehicle was "swept away and rolled several times downstream".

Duncan said the three adult males were airlifted back to Christchurch with minor injuries.

They underwent medical checks before speaking to police about the fatal incident.

Advertisement

The Ashburton Lakes area is about two hours inland from Christchurch.