'Stranger Things' actor Gaten Matarazzo pays tribute as 19-year-old cousin dies in car accident

Gaten Matarazzo attends the 26th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 19, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Amy Sussman/WireImage)

Gaten Matarazzo has paid tribute to his cousin Joey who he says died after a "terrible car accident" on Tuesday at the age of 19.

The actor, who plays Dustin Henderson in Stranger Things, posted to Instagram to share the sad news as he told fans he loved his late cousin "like a brother".

Sharing two throwback photos of himself and his late relative, the 17-year-old wrote: "It’s hard to find the right words in moments like this. My cousin Joey passed away this morning after a terrible car accident. He had just recently turned 19. He was such an important figure in my life and the lives of my entire family. I grew up with him and loved him like he was my brother.

"I love you bud. I will cherish the memories made with you for the rest of my life. There were plenty of tears today, but I know that once they dry we will look back with only smiles on our faces. And even now I can’t help but giggle at the little memories that seemed so minuscule just two days ago, but mean so much more now."

The Netflix star added that memories were "flooding his head" as he went on: "Like when I kicked your a** at ping pong two weeks ago or when we played violent video games without telling my mom when we were younger and when you, [Matarazzo's brother] Carmen, and I would fight over the top bunk until we gave up and all slept on it. I love you. I miss you. Rest well."

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Matarazzo was flooded with messages of support from friends and fans under the post.

Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin Henderson in Stranger Things. (Netflix)

The actor has appeared in Stranger Things since 2016, and had aspects of himself written into the character as both Dustin and Matarazzo have cleidocranial dysplasia (CCD), a condition which affects the growth of the bones and teeth.

Earlier this year, he underwent surgery for the rare disorder and later confirmed it had been a success.