Family of dead Boeing whistleblower pay heartbreaking tributes and say his absence will be ‘deeply felt’

Joshua Dean died after a short illness and had raised concerns about Boeing aircraft after working as a quality auditor at a supplier to the troubled aerospace giant

Dan Gooding
Friday 03 May 2024 22:55 BST
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Second Boeing whistleblower claiming safety issues were ignored dies suddenly

Relatives of the second Boeing whistleblower to die in recent months have been paying tribute to him, saying his last few weeks were “brutal”.

Joshua Dean, 45, died following the onset of a fast-moving infection around a month after another whistleblower was found dead.

Mr Dean was a former quality auditor at Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems, who went public with claims that the company’s leadership ignored manufacturing defects in Boeing’s 737 MAX.

“My handsome brother Joshua passed away this morning and is with our baby brother,” his sister, Taylor Rae Roberts, wrote in a heartbreaking Facebook post.

“I don’t know how much more my family can take. I don’t know how much more I can take honestly.”

Joshua Dean, 45, died following the onset of a fast-moving infection
Joshua Dean, 45, died following the onset of a fast-moving infection (Supplied)

His mother and stepfather spoke to NPR, explaining that Mr Dean was a “health nut”.

"He was just amazing," Winn Weir, Mr Dean’s stepfather, said. "He could read something and then he could just tell you word for word what he read" days later.

Mr Dean’s aunt, Carol Parsons, told The Seattle Times that he had spent two weeks in a critical condition in hospital after developing pneumonia and MRSA.

“It was brutal what he went through,” Parsons said, explaining that doctors considered amputating his hands and feet. “Heartbreaking.”

Joshua Dean, 45, died following the onset of a fast-moving infection
Joshua Dean, 45, died following the onset of a fast-moving infection (Supplied)

Ms Parsons also posted on Facebook, saying Mr Dean’s “absence will be deeply felt”.

Another aunt, Jenny Dean, shared a tribute on Facebook.

"My dear nephew Joshua passed away this morning,” she said. “Thank you for all your prayers and thoughts."

Dean, from Wichita, is the second whistleblower to die this year after coming forward about safety issues in the aviation manufacturing industry. Boeing whistleblower John Barnett, 62, was found dead in his truck in a hotel parking lot in South Carolina in March.

The whistleblower’s death is the latest in a string of incidents related to embattled Boeing over the past year. In January, an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9’s door plug blew off in mid-air, leading to the grounding of all 171 MAX 9 jets by the FAA and instigating an investigation.

Soon afterwards, at least four people came forward — including both of the now-dead whistleblowers — to allege that corner-cutting in the jets’ manufacturing process was causing safety risks.

In the wake of the chaos, Dave Calhoun, Boeing CEO, announced in March that he would step down at the end of the year. Boeing reported a $355 million net loss for the first quarter of 2024.

Joshua Dean came forward to raise issues of aircraft safety. He said that “serious and gross misconduct by senior quality management of the 737 production line” had taken place at Spirit, in a complaint to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

John Barnett was found dead in March, after also raising concerns about Boeing’s aircraft manufacturing processes
John Barnett was found dead in March, after also raising concerns about Boeing’s aircraft manufacturing processes (@Megatron_ron/Twitter)

In January, Dean told the Wall Street Journal that he had been fired for pointing out that holes in jet fuselages had been drilled wrong. He was fired from Spirit Aerosystems in April 2023, and he complained later that his termination was in retaliation.

Despite that, the company paid tribute following his death.

“Our thoughts are with Josh Dean’s family. This sudden loss is stunning news here and for his loved ones,” Spirit spokesperson Joe Buccino said.

Brian Knowles, one of the lawyers representing Mr Dean, told The Seattle Times that he would not comment on the circumstances around his client’s death or that of Mr Barnett.

“Whistleblowers are needed. They bring to light wrongdoing and corruption in the interests of society. It takes a lot of courage to stand up,” Mr Knowles told the outlet.

“It’s a difficult set of circumstances. Our thoughts now are with John’s family and Josh’s family.”

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