Horst D. Deckert

Boeing Whistleblower’s Death Ruled a Suicide by Police

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John Barnett died of a gunshot wound to the head after testifying against his former employer

A former Boeing manager who was found dead in South Carolina after giving extensive testimony against the scandal-ridden company, killed himself, according to a police investigation.

John Barnett, 62, of Louisiana, was found dead in a car outside a Holiday Inn, on 9 March, of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was in Charleston, South Carolina answering questions for depositions as part of a whistleblower complaint. A hearing had been scheduled for June.

Barnett is not the only whistleblower to have died after speaking out against Boeing. On April 30, Joshua Dean, 45, died of a sudden illness in hospital. He had been fired from his quality-auditing role at Spirit Aerosystems, which produces parts for Boeing’s 737 Max planes, after questioning standards at Spirit’s factory in Wichita, Kansas.

“I think they were sending out a message to anybody else. If you are too loud, we will silence you,” Dean told NPR

🚨#BREAKING: Passengers onboard the terrifying midair door blowout on an Alaska Airlines flight were told by the FBI that they may be victims of a crime
⁰📌#UnitedStates | #USA ⁰⁰All 171 Passengers aboard the Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9, which experienced a midair door… pic.twitter.com/GctCwBGOyL

— R A W S A L E R T S (@rawsalerts) March 22, 2024

John Barnett worked for Boeing for decades and was a quality-control manager for the company when he retired in 2017.

Following his retirement, he spoke repeatedly to journalists to raise concerns about safety practices at the aviation giant, including discovering metal shavings near wiring for flight controls, which could potentially have severed it, and defects with a quarter of the oxygen systems on Boeing’s 787 planes.

“John was deeply concerned about the safety of the aircraft and flying public, and had identified some serious defects that he felt were not adequately addressed,” Rodney Barnett said in a family statement a few days after his brother’s death.

“He said that Boeing had a culture of concealment and was putting profits over safety.”

The family also alleged that John Barnett had faced a “hostile work environment at Boeing” because of his concerns about the safety of their planes, and that this caused him to suffer from “PTSD and anxiety attacks” which directly led to his death.

Boeing has come under enormous scrutiny and financial pressure in recent months after ongoing problems with its planes, which have included parts falling off at high altitude.

In January, for example, Alaska Airlines Flight 1282—a Boeing 737 Max 9—shed a door plug at 16,000 feet on a flight from Oregon to California. The plane was able to land safely, but in response the FFA ground 171 Max 9s and six of the flight’s passengers sued the airline.

Other planes have skidded off runways, lost wheels in flight or suffered severe engine problems.

Multiple whistleblowers have come forward to allege malpractice.


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