Second Boeing Whistleblower Dies Suddenly
Second Boeing Whistleblower Dies Suddenly

By Chase Smith

A former quality auditor at a Boeing supplier died suddenly this week after struggling with a “sudden, fast-spreading infection,” the Seattle Times reported on May 1.

Joshua “Josh” Dean, a Spirit AeroSystems employee who was one of the first to allege his company had ignored manufacturing defects on Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft, died at 45 years old on Tuesday, a family member confirmed to the outlet.

He is the second whistleblower to die recently after John “Mitch” Barnett died in March from what authorities ruled as a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Mr. Barnett and Mr. Dean were both represented by the same law firm in South Carolina.

Mr. Barnett had previously recounted an experience in 2012 when he claimed to have identified roughly 300 defects at Spirit AeroSystems, where Mr. Dean worked, only to discover later that inspectors sent after him were given limited time and were lauded for finding fewer issues.

An attorney for Mr. Dean told the Seattle Times that he didn’t want to speculate about the close timing and circumstances of the two deaths, noting it was a “difficult set of circumstances” and the firm’s thoughts were with Mr. Barnett and Mr. Dean’s families.

The outlet reported that Mr. Dean filed a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration alleging serious and gross misconduct with quality control management at Spirit AeroSystems and gave a deposition in a shareholder lawsuit against the company recently.

Spirit fired Mr. Dean in April 2023, and he had filed a complaint with the Department of Labor alleging his termination was in retaliation for raising concerns related to aviation safety.

Mr. Dean lived in Wichita, Kansas, where Spirit Aerosystems is located, according to the outlet, and died after two weeks in critical condition after he became ill and went to the hospital when he started having trouble breathing. His aunt, Carol Parsons, told the outlet that he was intubated, developed pneumonia, and then developed a serious bacterial infection before rapidly deteriorating.

First Whistleblower’s Death

Mr. Barnett, who was involved in a lawsuit against Boeing, was found dead on March 9 in South Carolina, according to local officials.

The 62-year-old man was found dead “from what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound,” the Charleston County Coroner’s office told The Epoch Times in a statement at the time.

Mr. Barnett, who had worked for more than 30 years at Boeing before retiring in 2017, had become a vocal critic of the company’s safety and production quality practices. At the time of his death, he was a key witness in a whistleblower lawsuit against Boeing, in which he claimed that the aircraft maker had retaliated against him for repeatedly reporting defects.

His body was discovered in a vehicle on the day he was scheduled to appear in court.

“We are saddened by Mr. Barnett’s passing, and our thoughts are with his family and friends,” Boeing said in a statement shared with The Epoch Times at the time.

In a recent live-streamed interview on TMZ, Mr. Barnett, who carried out safety checks and oversaw aircraft production, raised concerns about quality control issues, specifically within the 737 and 787 aircraft programs. He claimed that the removal of inspection operations from jobs had led to defects and safety issues.

Mr. Barnett pointed to a recent high-profile incident involving a door plug blowout on an Alaska Airlines flight, asserting that it might not have been an isolated occurrence.

“This is not a 737 problem; it’s a Boeing problem,” he said.

The midair blowout on an Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 on Jan. 5 forced an emergency landing and sparked intense scrutiny of Boeing by federal regulators. The panel covering an unused door came off during the flight because the four bolts that were supposed to be holding it in place were missing, according to a report by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Boeing acknowledged in mid-January that its 737 Max production quality wasn’t up to standard and soon after ousted Ed Clark, who had led the 737 Max program. The company said the ousting comes as part of an increased focus on safety.

The incident led the Federal Aviation Administration to ground all 737 Max 9s, order “enhanced inspections” on the planes, and open an investigation to see if the company failed to ensure proper production safety standards.

Boeing stated in January that it was cooperating fully with the probe.

However, Mr. Barnett said his concerns were greater than the door plug blowout, expanding to the overall condition of Boeing airplanes because of the elimination of inspection operations. He alleged that Boeing had removed these operations, leaving mechanics to handle their own work, resulting in incomplete and improperly inspected jobs.

Caden Pearson contributed to this report.

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