Boeing is facing ten more ‘safe and sound’ whistleblowers after two die suddenly

Former employees Joshua Dean, 45, and John Barrett, 62, died unexpectedly earlier this year after speaking out against the beleagured US aircraft manufacturer

Mike Bedigan
Tuesday 07 May 2024 00:47 BST
Related video: Boeing whistleblower reveals during testimony he has nightmares of being stabbed

Beleaguered airline manufacturer Boeing faces at least ten more ‘safe and sound’ whistleblowers after two men who had publicly spoken out against the troubled aerospace company died in recent weeks.

Joshua Dean, who worked as a quality auditor at Spirit AeroSystems, died last week, according to his family. The 45-year-old who had an active lifestyle and was believed to be in good health, passed away in the hospital following the onset of a fast-moving infection. He suffered from Influenza B and MRSA, and developed pneumonia, according to Fox59.

John Barnett, 62, a quality control engineer at Boeing for 32 years, was found dead at a hotel in March, reportedly from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

There remain at least ten other Boeing whistleblowers out there, both former and current employees, who are “safe and sound” lawyers for both Dean and Barnett told The Independent.

Attorney Brian Knowles described the two men as “heroes” who wanted to “help the company do better.”

He told The Independent: “What I don’t want to see is, these two unfortunate circumstances, what happened with Josh or John, is to make them fearful to speak up. [But] there are other people out there... there are others.”

In January, a door plug of a Boeing 737 MAX 9 travelling for Alaska Airlines blew off in mid-air, leading to the grounding of all 171 MAX 9 jets by the FAA and instigating an investigation (AP)

He added that he would not “speculate” on the multiple conspiracy theories being spread online surrounding the two men’s deaths.

“These men were heroes. So are all the whistleblowers. They loved the company and wanted to help the company do better,” Mr Knowles previously told The New York Post. “They didn’t speak out to be aggravating or for fame. They’re raising concerns because people’s lives are at stake.”

It comes after a string of incidents related to 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.

On Monday the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) announced it had launched a new investigation into Boeing after the manufacturer “voluntarily” informed it that inspections of a number of its 787 Dreamliner models “may not have been completed.”

In a statement to NPR, the FAA said it’s also investigating “whether Boeing completed the inspections and whether company employees may have falsified aircraft records.” The agency also said Boeing is re-inspecting “all 787 airplanes still within the production system and must also create a plan to address the in-service fleet.”

Monday’s announcement comes in the wake of several previous Boeing controversies.

Four people came forward — including Dean and Barnett, alleged that corner-cutting in the manufacturing process of the MAX 9 was causing safety risks.

The death of Joshua Dean, 45, was announced last week. A former quality auditor at Spirit AeroSystems, he previously went public with claims that the company’s leadership ignored manufacturing defects in Boeing’s 737 MAX (Supplied)

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

Meanwhile, Dean’s family posted moving tributes to him on social media.

“My handsome brother Joshua passed away this morning and is with our baby brother. I don’t know how much more my family can take. I don’t know how much more I can take honestly,” his sister, Taylor Rae Roberts, wrote in a Facebook post.

He had gone public with claims that Spirit’s leadership ignored manufacturing defects in Boeing’s 737 MAX, in a complaint to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in December 2023, as part of a lawsuit filed against the company by shareholders in December 2023.

He told The Wall Street Journal in January that he had been fired in April 2023 for pointing out that holes in jet fuselages had been drilled incorrectly.

Barnett was found dead at a hotel in March in Charleston, South Carolina.

The former Boeing worker had alleged that the company intentionally used defective parts in its planes and warned that passengers on its 787 Dreamliner might face a lack of oxygen if a sudden decompression occurred.

John Barnett, 62, was found dead in a hotel room in March from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound after beginning testimony in a lawsuit against Boeing (@Megatron_ron/Twitter)

He was found dead just days after beginning testimony into another lawsuit against Boeing.

Mr Knowles said Barnett had developed PTSD through working for the company, having faced push back against issues he had raised to his superiours.

“That stuff weighed on him,” Mr Knowles told The Independent.

“When you’re complaining up the chain about serious quality and safety issues you should be taken seriously, you dhouldn’t be harassed for doing that. And he faced that constantly.

“That’s a pretty heavy load to take on and then to raise issues and be told not to worry about it, to work in the grey area... there is no grey area.”

If you are experiencing feelings of distress, or are struggling to cope, you can speak to the Samaritans, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.

If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). This is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you are in another country, you can go to to find a helpline near you.

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