50 Boeing whistleblowers still want to talk safety fears despite two informants dying after speaking out

Dozens of Boeing employees, both past and present, continue to seek legal representation, expressing a desire to testify about their own experiences and concerns with the embattled aircraft manufacturer

Mike Bedigan
Los Angeles
Tuesday 18 June 2024 15:58 BST
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Roughly 50 current and old Boeing employees have joined the cause against the beleaguered aircraft manufacturer and demand improved safety for fliers, despite the deaths of two whistleblowers.

The employees are not trying to “bring down” the company but are desperate to get its safety standards on track, their lawyers have said.

Boeing has been under fire for months after a series of high-profile safety incidents, including a door plug blowing out of a plane at 16,000 feet. In the wake, federal authorities have launched multiple investigations into the company. Whistleblowers have also come forward to sound the alarm over the manufacturing process and their concerns for passenger safety.

Two whistleblowers have died this year after speaking out about the concerns, and the timing of their deaths raised questions. Still, dozens continue to express a desire to testify about their own experiences and concerns, lawyer Brian Knowles told The Independent.

John Barnett, 62, a quality control engineer, had just begun testimony in a lawsuit against Boeing in March, when he was found in his truck at a South Carolina motel, with a fatal, self-inflicted gunshot wound.

John Barnett, a quality control engineer at Boeing, had just begun testimony in a lawsuit against the manufacturer in March when he was found dead. His lawyer said other workers are now interested in talking about concerns with safety at Boeing
John Barnett, a quality control engineer at Boeing, had just begun testimony in a lawsuit against the manufacturer in March when he was found dead. His lawyer said other workers are now interested in talking about concerns with safety at Boeing (@Megatron_ron/Twitter)

His family previously laid the blame for his death at the feet of Boeing, even though, they said, the company had not physically “pulled the trigger.” A coroner’s report later found Barnett to be suffering from extreme stress and PTSD.

Joshua Dean, 45, died unexpectedly in early May. The quality auditor at Spirit AeroSystems – one of Boeing’s biggest suppliers – passed away in the hospital following the onset of a fast-moving infection.

Knowles, who represents several of the Boeing whistleblowers – including Dean and Barnett – said despite the deaths of both men his office had heard from “40 to 50-plus people” since the first stories broke about Boeing’s manufacturing process.

“They’re trying to get them to clean up their act and get the company back on track,” he said.

He continued: “It’s not about bringing down the company at all. The company can’t fail. You know, it’s too important to the American economy and the global economy.

Joshua Dean, a quality auditor at Spirit AeroSystems passed away in the hospital following the onset of a fast-moving infection
Joshua Dean, a quality auditor at Spirit AeroSystems passed away in the hospital following the onset of a fast-moving infection (Supplied)

“What they need to do is really seriously consider that quality and safety should be a priority when you’re building an aircraft that carries on hundreds of people’s lives.

“I mean, if you think about it with any type of manufacturer – if you start putting out bad products you’re gonna lose your customer base. And then people are going to lose faith in the quality of the product.”

Knowles added that dozens of other employees and people connected to the company had contacted him in the past few months. He said he was still sorting through them.

“Obviously, if they’re not being heard internally, and they’re not seeing change internally, then they are going to go outside the company to try to get the direction to change.”

Santiago Paredes has also spoken out about his concerns over safety at Spirit Aerosystems
Santiago Paredes has also spoken out about his concerns over safety at Spirit Aerosystems (Sheila Flynn)

It comes as two other whistleblowers – Roy Irvin and Santiago Paredes – came forward publicly to share their concerns.

Irvin worked as a quality investigator at Boeing in North Charleston, South Carolina, from 2011 to 2017. He told The New York Post that he had known Barnett and, similarly, had “pushed back” against safety and quality issues.

He told the outlet that he was “not a conspiracy theorist” but that the circumstances surrounding Barnett’s death, to him, “didn’t add up”.

Paredes, a former employee at Spirit Aerosystems, spoke exclusively to The Independent last month and also dismissed conspiracy theories about the two deaths, though he admitted he was remaining vigilant about his own safety.

The Independent has contacted representatives for Boeing for comment.

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