Another life cut tragically short. Michael Fortunato, who appeared on season two of MTV's Catfish series, died on Saturday, Oct. 12, of a pulmonary embolism, MTV reports. He was 26.
Fortunato's younger sister, Gena, confirmed the news on Monday, Oct. 14. An autopsy has yet to be released, but a spokesperson for the Farmington, Conn., medical examiner's office told MTV that the young man died at Hartford Hospital from a pulmonary embolism resulting from deep vein thrombosis. Other contributing factors included obesity and cardiomyopathy.
Fortunato, a New Jersey native, was one of the subjects of MTV's popular docudrama Catfish, which helps couples in online relationships meet in real life. (The term "catfish" refers to a person who creates fake personal profiles on the Internet in order to trick someone else into falling in love with him or her.)
Prior to appearing on the show, Fortunato had been in a seven-year online-only relationship with Ashley Sawyer. Their first meeting was documented in the series' 10th episode of the second season.
Sawyer told MTV that Fortunato had texted her the morning of his death about going to the hospital, but that he later changed his mind. According to Gena, he was en route to seek medical care when he swerved and hit a fence; two hours later, she got the call that he had died.
"I don't even know where to start," Gena told MTV. "He was a little kid at heart -- a gentle giant. He's somebody who put everybody before himself; everybody else came before him. The biggest heart that you'd ever meet."
Added Sawyer, 20, who told MTV she and Fortunato were "very much in love": "He would give anybody the last shirt he had -- anything. He would put his life on hold just to make sure other people moved forward. He always put people first."