'Catfish' Subject Michael Fortunato Dies at 26

3:28 PM PST 10/15/2013 by THR Staff

The New Jersey native starred in a season-two episode that followed him as he met the woman with whom he'd been in a seven-year online relationship.

Michael Fortunato, a former subject on MTV's Catfish, has died as a result of a pulmonary embolism, MTV News reported. He was 26.

Fortunato, who died Saturday at Connecticut's Hartford Hospital, appeared in a season-two episode of the docuseries. It followed both him and Ashley Sawyer, 20, with whom he'd been in a seven-year online relationship, as they met for the first time.

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A spokesperson for the Farmington, Conn., chief medical examiner's office told MTV News that he died as a result of a pulmonary embolism due to deep vein thrombosis. Obesity and cardiomyopathy also contributed to his death. An autopsy has not yet been released.

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of Michael Fortunato," an MTV spokesperson said in a statement. "Our condolences, thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time."

Fortunato and Sawyer were still dating at the time of his death.

She said he was en route to the hospital Saturday when he swerved and hit a fence. Paramedics arrives on the scene and took him to the hospital. Two hours later, his sister Gena got a call from her mom that he had died.

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"He was a little kid at heart -- a gentle giant," Gena said. "He's somebody who put everybody before himself; everybody else came before him. The biggest heart that you'd ever meet."

Added Sawyer: "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."

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