A man who died after jumping into the Niagara Gorge while being chased by police Tuesday evening had been living at a youth residence nearby for the past two years but had hoped to gain more life skills in order to move out on his own.

The province’s Special Investigations Unit is probing what happened when around 5 p.m. Tuesday a police officer chased an 18-year-old suspect, who then jumped over a retaining wall and into the Gorge. The officer followed right behind him.

The young man did not survive the fall. However, the officer was pulled from the Gorge with a broken leg.

Niagara police identified the officer involved as Const. Jacob Smits and said he underwent emergency surgery after the fall.

While the SIU is not releasing the deceased man’s name, his girlfriend identified him to CTV Toronto as Ryan Dube.

Joanne Turner of the Boys and Girls Club of Niagara, which oversees the youth residence at which Dube was living, said the young man was well-liked by staff and there had never been an incident of violence at the centre involving him.

Turner told CTV Toronto’s Tamara Cherry that Dube had lived off-and-on at the home for the past two years. While he was considered a short-term resident, he had been hoping to join the long-term program to gain more life skills and move out on his own, Cherry reported.

Dube’s girlfriend Heather, who did not want her face shown on camera, said he “was a nice kid.

“He was really a gentleman, really sweet. He knew how to treat his ladies, I’ll tell you that much.”

The incident occurred on River Road., between Eastwood Street and Otter Sreet, about two kilometres north of Niagara Falls.

NiagaraRegional Police Const. Derek Watson estimated the drop was as much as 30 metres (100 feet), though he could not say exactly how far down the men fell.

Dube’s girlfriend said he had come into her bedroom earlier that day to tell her he loved her and that they had to go out to look for an apartment.

The pair stopped at neighbour Greg Taylor’s house to ask for directions and were gone for about 45 minutes before they returned to the area and encountered the police officer.

Taylorsaid it appeared the officer was going to arrest Dube, but let him have a cigarette. When the officer reached into his car, Dube took off.

“The officer hollered out the guy’s name, went after him, down through the park and he was out of sight from that point on,” Taylor said.

Heather said she yelled at Dube to stop running, but he was gone.

Dube ran down to River Road, where he jumped a retaining wall and plunged to his death.

“I don’t know why he was running or why the cops were looking for him,” Taylor said.

“I’m sure whatever it was, it’s not as bad as it is now.”

River Road remained closed in the area Wednesday morning as Niagara Regional Police continue their own separate investigation.

In a statement released Wednesday, Niagara police thanked the Niagara Falls Fire Department, Niagara Emergency Medical Services and Niagara Parks Police “for their efforts and professionalism during a difficult rescue.”

With a report from CTV Toronto’s Tamara Cherry