‘Catfish’ Star Michael Fortunato Found Dead At 26

Catfish contestant Michael Fortunato has died. The contestant who was known as the “gentle giant” has apparently suffered from a pulmonary embolism on Saturday.

Michael Fortunato was featured on season 2 of MTV’s Catfish. Catfish unites online relationships face to face, and also reveals hidden identities of those who are being ‘catfished’ by the person on the other side of the computer screen. During Michael’s episode of Catfish, both he and Ashley were catfishing each other, labeling the episode as a “double catfish.”

The two met up after having a sever-year relationship online. Even though they had pictures of one another, the two didn’t exactly look like the people that they portrayed themselves out to be.

Regardless of their identities being a bit skewed, Ashley and Fortunato surprisingly seemed to have reunited after the show. In the original episode Ashley had sparked some criticism when she turned down Michael over his size. HuffPost wrote in their Catfish recap: “Double Catfish Reveals Shallow Hypocrisy On ‘Catfish: The TV Show.’ On the day of his death, Sawyer had said that Michael texted her, telling her that he felt ill and was thinking about going to the hospital. Ashley got another text saying that he changed his mind.

Fortunato’s sister Gena, 21, opened up to MTV and said Michael decided to drive himself to the hospital but never made it. Fortunado reportedly swerved and hit a fence. When paramedics were on the scene, Fortunato was transported to the hospital, but died two hours later. Gena heard the news of her brother’s death from her mother.

Of Michael, his girlfriend Ashley Sawyer said that he was, “The most honest, loyal person I’d ever met in my life. 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.”

According to Sawyer the two were supposed to spend New Year’s Eve together, and she would have met his sister Gena for the first time. Of her relationship with Michael, Ashley said, “Me and him were very much in love. We were definitely moving forward.”

Gena told MTV, “I don’t even know where to start. 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.”

Catfish has come forward to express their condolences to Michael Fortunato’s family. In a Facebook post Catfish’s production said:

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time. Please share your condolences for his family and friends in the comments.”

Catfish’s host Nev Schulman also made a post concerning Michael’s death, having written on his Facebook page:

“I didn’t know him well, but I feel very lucky to have known him at all. He was a great guy and an even better friend. He will be missed.”