A Second Boeing Whistleblower Has Died

A former quality auditor who accused a Boeing supplier of ignoring manufacturing defects on the 737 Max jetliner died Tuesday at age 45.

Joshua Dean had alleged that he was fired in April 2023 for bringing up poor standards at Spirit AeroSystems’ manufacturing plant in Wichita, Kansas. He died following a sudden illness, The Seattle Times first reported Wednesday.

Dean had developed a fast-spreading bacterial infection, MRSA, and was hospitalized before his death. Dean’s aunt, Carol Parsons, shared a Facebook post with a message from Dean’s mother, dated Monday, that said his condition was deteriorating.

“His lungs are totally whited out from infection,” the mother’s message said. “Josh is very depressed, frightened, and doing a lot of sleeping and not responding as much as he was a few days ago and has not been on any sedation or pain meds.”

Dean filed a complaint with the Labor Department following his termination from Spirit last year, alleging that he was fired in retaliation for raising safety concerns. He alleged that mechanics were improperly drilling holes in the aft pressure bulkhead of the Max, and that management didn’t take his complaints seriously, according to The Seattle Times.

In this March 27, 2019, photo taken with a fisheye lens, a Max 8 airplane sits on the assembly line during a media tour at Boeing's 737 assembly facility in Renton, Washington.
In this March 27, 2019, photo taken with a fisheye lens, a Max 8 airplane sits on the assembly line during a media tour at Boeing's 737 assembly facility in Renton, Washington. Ted S. Warren via Associated Press

Dean gave a deposition and filed a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration alleging “serious and gross misconduct by senior quality management of the 737 production line” at Spirit AeroSystems.

News of Dean’s death comes as Boeing faces criticism followingmultiplereports of plane failures.

So far this year, there have been over 40 incidents, accidents and occurrences involving Boeing planes, according to the National Transportation Safety Board’s Case Analysis and Reporting Online tool. However, that number nearly matches the data for the same period in 2023, and experts say that Boeing’s issues aren’t actually on the rise.

Dean is now the second Boeing whistleblower to die this year. In March, former Boeing employee John Barnett, 62, was found dead in his car from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Barnett, who was a quality control engineer before retiring in 2017, had been testifying in a deposition against Boeing prior to his death. In a 2019 interview with The New York Times, Barnett alleged that he found metal shavings hanging over wiring that commands the Boeing 787 Dreamliner’s flight controls, putting the wires at risk of “catastrophic” injury during flight.

Barnett’s attorneys, Robert Turkewitz and Brian Knowles, told HuffPost at the time of his death that the case was “nearing the end.”

“He was in very good spirits and really looking forward to putting this phase of his life behind him and moving on,” the attorneys said in a statement. “We didn’t see any indication he would take his own life. No one can believe it.”

Knowles and Turkewitz also represented Dean.

“Whistleblowers are needed. They bring to light wrongdoing and corruption in the interests of society. It takes a lot of courage to stand up,” Knowles said this week in a statement to The Seattle Times. “It’s a difficult set of circumstances. Our thoughts now are with John’s family and Josh’s family.”

Last month, another former Boeing employee who worked on the company’s 787 Dreamliner went public with claims that the plane’s fuselage could fall apart midflight.

“I literally saw people jumping on the pieces of the airplane to get them to align,” whistleblower Sam Salehpour told reporters on a call. “That’s not how you build a plane.”

Salehpour alleged that after bringing his concerns to management, he was transferred to another division. In a statement to HuffPost at the time, the Federal Aviation Administration said that it was “thoroughly” looking into Salehpour’s complaint.