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Second Boeing whistleblower found dead – Are they being offed?
By Cassie B. // May 05, 2024

When a whistleblower who was giving depositions against aircraft manufacturer Boeing was found dead in an apparent suicide in March, many people suspected foul play, and now a second Boeing whistleblower death is adding fuel to the fire.

In the latest incident, a former quality auditor for the Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems, Joshua Dean, passed away after an unexpected fast-spreading infection. Dean was one of the first whistleblowers to claim that executives at Spirit ignored manufacturing defects in Boeing's 737 Max airplanes.

The 45-year-old had worked for Spirit as a mechanical engineer in 2019. After being laid off as part of pandemic-related job cuts, he eventually returned to Spirit as a quality auditor. More than a year after taking on this role, he identified a serious manufacturing defect that involved mechanics improperly drilling holes into the aft pressure bulkhead of the aircraft. Although he reported the problem to management, they ignored it.

His focus on that particular defect caused him to miss a different flaw in the fittings used to attach the plane’s tail fin to the fuselage. After this problem was discovered, Dean was fired. A few months later, Spirit announced that they had discovered the improperly drilled holes – the same ones that Dean had brought to their attention – in Max models dating back to at least 2019. At that point, Dean decided to file a safety complaint with the FAA alleging that Spirit lied to the agency about the defects and used him as a scapegoat.

He also filed an aviation whistleblower complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor claiming that he was wrongfully terminated in retaliation for presenting his concerns about the safety of the aircraft. That case is still pending. However, one of his former colleagues has confirmed some of the allegations Dean made.

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In January, Dean told the Wall Street Journal: "It is known at Spirit that if you make too much noise and cause too much trouble, you will be moved. It doesn't mean you completely disregard stuff, but they don't want you to find everything and write it up."

According to Dean's aunt, he became sick just over two weeks ago and went to the hospital with breathing difficulties. There, he was intubated and ended up developing pneumonia and the bacterial infection MRSA. He was later airlifted from Wichita to Oklahoma City as his condition deteriorated, where he was put on machines that took over his lung and heart functions because his organs no longer functioned on their own.

A CT scan showed that he suffered a stroke, and he was heavily sedated and placed on dialysis. Doctors were considering amputating his feet and hands, but he passed away rather quickly in a death that his aunt said was “brutal” and “heartbreaking.”

Another Boeing whistleblower was found dead in March

Dean was represented by the same law firm that had been representing another Boeing whistleblower, John Barnett.

Barnett was in the process of providing depositions describing how Boeing retaliated against him for complaining about quality issues with their aircraft when he was found dead in Charleston, where Boeing manufactures 787s, from a gunshot wound in what was said to be an apparent suicide.

However, the police investigation into Barnett’s death is still ongoing.

When asked to comment about the circumstances of the deaths of the two whistleblowers, one of Dean’s lawyers, Brian Knowles said: “Whistleblowers are needed. They bring to light wrongdoing and corruption in the interests of society. It takes a lot of courage to stand up. It’s a difficult set of circumstances. Our thoughts now are with John’s family and Josh’s family.”

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