An off-duty police officer discovered a motorcyclist killed in a crash in the Lindis Pass, Central Otago yesterday.

The single-vehicle crash occurred within 1km of the summit of the pass, on the Tarras side of State Highway 8, at about 4pm yesterday.

The Serious Crash Unit was investigating the death and no other vehicles were involved, a police spokeswoman said.

An off-duty police officer was first on the scene and alerted emergency services just after 4pm.

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A St John spokeswoman confirmed a male had died at the scene. An ambulance attended the incident and called for the rescue helicopter, however, it was turned back as the patient had died, she said.

The police spokeswoman said it was unclear what caused the crash and the circumstances remained under investigation.

It appeared the man was south-bound heading towards Tarras, she said.

The road remained open, but was down to one lane for some time yesterday as officers carried out their investigation.

No further details of the man's identity - including his age - were available last night.

Police could not comment on whether the man was accompanied by others or their destination.

The coroner had been advised.