Multiple Boeing Whistleblower Deaths Have Churned the Conspiracy Rumor Mill

"Aviation companies should encourage and incentivize those that do raise these concerns," said an attorney for the whistleblowers.

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

May 3 2024, Published 1:43 p.m. ET

A Boeing 737 MAX 9 of Alaska Airlines takes off from San Francisco International Airport on April 4, 2024
Source: Getty Images

From January 2024 to May 2024, Boeing planes have experienced a string of issues. On Jan. 5, 2024, a "Boeing 737 Max 9 lost a door plug at 16,000 feet on a flight from Portland, Oregon, to Ontario, California," per the Daily Mail. Two months later, a gear collapsed caused a 737 Max 8 to slide down a runway in Houston. Two days later, a wheel fell off a Boeing 777-200 after taking off from San Francisco, which resulted in several cars being crushed.

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Those examples are just the tip of a deeply troubled iceberg for Boeing, which was charged by the Department of Justice with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. in January 2021, reported ABC News. Amid this chaos, 32 whistleblowers have come forward with complaints about the company since it was charged. Two of those whistleblowers are now dead. The Boeing conspiracy wheels are turning and are probably going to fall off. Here's what we know.

Nadia Milleron, whose daughter Samya Stuno died in the Boeing 737 MAX crash in Ethiopia on March 10, 2019, speaks during a memorial protest
Source: Getty Images
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The Boeing conspiracy starts with the death of John Barnett.

According to the BBC, John Barnett retired from Boeing in 2017 after an impressive 30-year tenure at the company. Starting in 2010 until he exited the company, Barnett was a quality control manager at a plant in North Charleston where he oversaw the building of the 787 Dreamliner. In 2019, he told the BBC that "faulty parts were deliberately fitted to planes on the production line at one Boeing factory." Furthermore, around a quarter of the oxygen systems could be defective.

Barnett took his concerns to management but didn't see anyone from Boeing address the issues. The company later denied these claims but a "2017 review by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) did uphold some of Mr. Barnett's concerns." After leaving the company, Barnett pursued legal action against Boeing and was deposed in March 2024. It was during this time that Barnett was found "dead in his truck in the hotel car park," from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

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Joshua Dean is the second Boeing whistleblower to suddenly die.

Less than two months later, another Boeing whistleblower would also pass away. Joshua Dean came from a family of Boeing employees, per NPR. His father and grandfather worked at a factory in Wichita, Kan. where Dean would later take a job as an auditor. While there he learned that several employees were aware that something was rotten in Denmark.

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Dean told the outlet that Boeing would throw celebratory pizza parties for the employees to congratulate them for lowering defects. "But we're not lowering defects," said Dean. "We just ain't reporting them." When Dean flagged improperly drilled holes in fuselages, he was fired in April 2023. "I think they were sending out a message to anybody else," said Dean. "If you are too loud, we will silence you."

A year after being fired, Dean died on April 30, 2024. The family of the 45-year-old former Boeing employee announced on social media that he had "quickly fallen into critical condition after being diagnosed with a MRSA bacterial infection," via NPR. Both Barnett and Dean were being represented by lawyer Brian Knowles who remarked on Dean's courage for speaking out. "Aviation companies should encourage and incentivize those that do raise these concerns," said Knowles.

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