THE son of former Newcastle Falcons star Butch Hays was killed yesterday morning in a tragic accident on a rail line in Newcastle.
Griffin Hays, 18, was found dead on the rail line at Tighes Hill about 8am yesterday.
Police investigating his death believe he may have been train surfing and fell onto the tracks between two freight carriages.
But the circumstances remain a mystery. Police have not yet been able to establish which train hit the teenager or when the accident happened.
The driver of a coal train passing the western entrance to the TAFE campus at Tighes Hill first saw the body.
Police at the scene yesterday morning said Griffin suffered significant injuries that indicated he had been hit by a train.
Police established a crime scene and called in forensic experts and Australian Rail Track Corporation crash investigators.
Speaking on behalf of Butch and his wife Julia last night, family friend Sandra Edwards said the couple and Griffin's sister Roberta, 21, were devastated.
Ms Edwards and Butch Hays were travelling to Port Macquarie for work yesterday when police phoned and told them the tragic news.
Ms Edwards said Griffin loved surfing and was a natural sportsman who shared his father's gentle nature.
"He was such a brilliant boy and he was very much like his father," Ms Edwards said.
"He was playing AFL in Newcastle and was a brilliant sportsman.
"He was just like Butch."
Griffin had worked at Dominos Pizza at Warners Bay for several years and work colleagues were in shock at the news yesterday.
Friends and members of the Hunter basketball community have reached out to the popular family.
American-born basketballer Butch Hays came to Newcastle as a journeyman to play for the Newcastle Falcons in the 1990s and decided to settle in the city with his family.
He has become a well-known community identity for his work in basketball and with various charities.
Newcastle Basketball Association president Marty McLean said the thoughts of the basketball community were with the family.
"I regard Butch as a good mate," Mr McLean said. "Griffin always had a smile on his face, similar to Butch I guess.
"Everyone is feeling for the family."
Mr Hays's former Falcons teammate Dave Simmons was preparing to fly up from Melbourne this morning to offer support.
He said his 18-year-old daughter Olivia was "crushed" by the loss of her friend Griffin.
"I think Butch will find all his teammates will come out and support him," Mr Simmons said.
"We like to think we're just as close as family."
Investigations into the incident continue and a report will be prepared for the coroner.