Michael Fortunato, who appeared on MTV's "Catfish" series, died Saturday in Hartford, Conn., from a pulmonary embolism after driving into a fence, MTV News reported
. He was 26 years old.
The New Jersey-born Fortunato had been featured in a season two episode titled "Ashley and Mike," in which he and 20-year-old Ashley Sawyer met for the first time following a seven-year online relationship.
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"Catfish" is an MTV reality show that explores the truth and lies of online dating by arranging face-to-face meetings between individuals who had previously never met in person.
Fortunato's death was confirmed Monday night by his younger sister Gena.
"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."
The 26-year-old's pulmonary embolism was caused by a deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot that forms within a vein, a spokesperson for the Farmington, Conn.'s chief medical examiner's office told MTV News.
Obesity and cardiomyopathy were also contributing factors in his death, the Hollywood Reporter noted
According to Sawyer, who was dating Fortunato at the time of his death, he was on his way to a hospital when he swerved and collided with a fence. It was not reported why he was going to the hospital.
Paramedics subsequently took Fortunato from the scene to the hospital where he died within two hours of his arrival, according to his family.
He was "the most honest, loyal person I'd ever met in my life," Sawyer told MTV News.
"He would give anybody the last shirt he had -- anything," Sawyer added. "He would put his life on hold just to make sure other people moved forward. He always put people first."
"Me and him were very much in love... We were definitely moving forward," Sawyer continued. "If more people were like Mike, everybody would be a little happier in the world."
In response to Fortunato's death MTV released a statement Monday that read, "We are deeply saddened by the loss of Michael Fortunato. Our condolences, thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time."
This is the second MTV reality star that has died this year in a car-related accident.
In April MTV reality star Shain Gandee was found dead in an apparent off-road driving accident, along with his uncle, David Gandee, 48, and a third man, 27-year-old Donald Robert Myers. The network subsequently canceled his show "Buckwild."
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