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'Catfish' subject Michael Fortunato dies at age 26

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Michael Fortunato

Catfish‘s Michael Fortunato, who appeared on the season 2 episode “Ashley and Mike,” died from a pulmonary embolism in Hartford, Conn., on Saturday. He was 26.

Fortunato’s younger sister, Gena, confirmed the report to MTV News. Gena said Fortunato was driving himself to the hospital when he hit a fence. Paramedics then arrived and transported him to Hartford Hospital.

Although the autopsy has not yet been released, the chief medial examiner’s office in Farmington, Conn., revealed that Fortunato died of a pulmonary embolism due to deep vein thrombosis. Other contributing factors were obesity and cariomyopathy.

“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.”

Mike’s fellow Catfish subject, Ashley Sawyer, also spoke about his death. “He would give anybody the last shirt he had — anything,” Sawyer said. “He would put his life on hold just to make sure other people moved forward. He always put people first.”

As for the couple, Sawyer said: “Me and him were very much in love… We were definitely moving forward. If more people were like Mike, everybody would be a little happier in the world.”

When they met online, Ashley sent Mike altered pictures of herself, while Mike had sent pics of another man. Though she initially rejected Mike after meeting him in person, their episode ended with them still in contact.