Second Boeing whistleblower dead within the past 3 months

A 45-year-old former aircraft quality auditor has become the second Boeing-related whistleblower to die in the past three months, after allegedly suffering from a sudden bacterial infection.

Joshua “Josh” Dean, of Wichita, Kan., worked for Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems and was one of the first people to accuse Spirit of ignoring serious manufacturing issues with their 737 Max airplanes, The Seattle Times reported Wednesday.

His death on Tuesday came just two weeks after he began feeling sick and decided to stay home from work to recover. But Dean’s condition only worsened and eventually proved fatal, despite him being a “health nut,” according to his family.

“He tested positive for influenza B, he tested positive for MRSA. He had pneumonia, his lungs were completely filled up. And from there, he just went downhill,” his mother, Virginia Green, told NPR.

“The doctor said he’d never seen anything like it before in his life. His lungs were just totally … gummed up, and like a mesh over them,” she added, noting it was her son’s first time ever in a hospital because “he never was sick.”

During his time working for Spirit, Dean flagged what he felt were serious issues with the manufacturing of the 737 Max jets, the same model of aircraft that suffered a door panel blowout during an Alaska Airlines flight in January.

Dean would go on to give a deposition related to his findings in a Spirit shareholder lawsuit, and submitted a complaint to the Federal Aviation Administration that accused Spirit of “serious and gross misconduct” related to their 737 production line.

After being fired from Spirit AeroSystems in 2023, Dean also filed a wrongful termination complaint with the Department of Labor, claiming he was ousted in retaliation for the concerns he raised over aircraft safety.

Following his death, Spirit released a statement Wednesday, writing, “Our thoughts are with Josh Dean’s family. This sudden loss is stunning news here and for his loved ones.”

Dean is now the second Boeing whistleblower to die since the company’s January incident. In March, 62-year-old John Barnett was found dead in South Carolina from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to the local coroner.

Barnett had been in the midst of giving depositions against Boeing, claiming the company retaliated against him for complaints about quality lapses. His death is still being investigated, nearly two months later.