The Fairfax County Fire Department says they are investigating reports that 31-year-old female firefighter Nicole Mittendorff was bullied before her death. The department received information about anonymous users calling Mittendorff and other female firefighters names on a web forum called Fairfax Underground. The department says they will not tolerate bullying of their firefighters and employees and will be investigating the claims. Mittendorff went missing on April 13, and her body was later found in Shanandoah National Park on April 21.
The Daily Mail reports that 31-year-old female firefighter and paramedic Nicole Mittendorff was reported missing on April 13 after she called in sick to work and left home. However, just three days later, her abandoned vehicle would be found at Shanandoah National Park on April 16 in a parking lot. A note was found in the vehicle, but Mittendorff’s body was not found until April 21. Police would not reveal what was written in the note or if it indicated that Mittendorff planned to commit suicide; however, it was revealed later that the young woman had committed suicide in a remote portion of the park some 330 yards from a treacherous rocky trail.
“At approximately 2:00 p.m. a ground team of National Park Service and Virginia State Police personnel discovered a body in a remote location more than a mile from the Whiteoak Canyon parking area and about 330 yards from the trail in treacherous rocky terrain. National Park Service and Virginia State Police are currently still processing the scene.”
Mittendorff’s family couldn’t think of a reason that the young woman would vanish into the park to commit suicide, and they say they were hoping for a different outcome. However, new evidence of online bullying may hold the key to Mittendorff’s untimely death. ABC reports that after the female firefighter was reported missing, anonymous users on the web forum Fairfax Underground began posting hateful messages directed towards the missing firefighter. She was called a “sl**”, “wh***” and “ugly” on the forum by unknown users. Other female firefighters were also allegedly targeted in the attack. It is currently unknown if Mittendorff read the comments before her death, but the Fairfax County Fire Department says they will investigate.
Now the Fairfax Fire Department says they are investigating the comments as bullying will not be tolerated at the department. Fairfax County Fire Chief Richard Bowers says that the comments will be investigated thoroughly but that the department needs to grieve the loss of a great firefighter first.
— DC Fire and EMS (@dcfireems) April 22, 2016
“The department can not and will not tolerate bullying of any kind. We will thoroughly investigate this matter and take any appropriate actions needed. However, right now we ask that we be allowed to grieve the loss of one of our own.”
In addition to the undisclosed contents of the note written by Nicole prior to her death, her family also says that Nicole downloaded a series of files to her phone. The family is now reaching out to the cell phone company to provide details about the downloaded documents.
“Nicole downloaded documents onto her cellphone before she went missing and that her wireless provider is now cooperating with the investigation. Just what the documents include has not yet been revealed.”
A vigil for Nicole was held at Fire Station 32 on Wednesday night just before the beloved firefighter’s body was discovered. Her family says that their “hearts are broken” but thankful for the support and prayers from the community.
Do you think online bullying could have resulted in the young woman’s death? Do you think the comments should be investigated further with the offending user held accountable for their actions?
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