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The Echo

The Student News Site of Tenafly High School

The Echo

The Student News Site of Tenafly High School

The Echo

Boeing Whistleblower Death Stuns Nation, the Second in Two Months

Joshua Dean was 45 at the time of his death.

On the morning of April 30, Boeing whistleblower Joshua “Josh” Dean passed in a medical facility in Oklahoma City following a battle with a severe bacterial infection. Dean’s death is the second of two Boeing whistleblower deaths in the past two months, with the first being John Barnett’s death on March 9.

Dean was a former quality auditor at Spirit AeroSystems who had been outspoken about the company’s production mismanagement – particularly about the flawed manufacturing of the 737 fuselage, a process which he oversaw.

Dean told The Wall Street Journal in January that voices of dissatisfaction and concern were often suppressed at Boeing, and that efforts to hide production issues and defects were common. “It is known at Spirit that if you make too much noise and cause too much trouble, you will be moved,” Dean said. “It doesn’t mean you completely disregard stuff, but they don’t want you to find everything and write it up.”

According to The Seattle Times,, Dean had previously filed a complaint against Boeing as part of a shareholder lawsuit “raising concerns of gross misconduct by the senior quality management of the 737 Max aircrafts.” Dean was fired by Boeing in April of 2023, which drove him to file a dispute with the Department of Labor accusing Boeing of wrongful employment termination. The case was still ongoing as of Dean’s death.

Dean first began to display signs of illness around two weeks preceding his untimely passing. Virginia Green, his mother, told NPR that Dean had made a call to her explaining that he was “really sick” and was having trouble breathing. Dean was admitted to the emergency room only a few hours later, where he tested positive for several severe infections including pneumonia, influenza B, and MRSA. Following a bronchoscopy the night before Dean’s death, the procedure revealed that Dean’s lungs were completely “gummed up” and had what appeared to be a “mesh” over them. Doctors treating him had even considered amputating his hands and feet, as they had “turned black from a lack of oxygen.”

For Dean’s loved ones, this mystifying illness emerged completely out of the blue. In fact, Green and Dean’s stepfather had described him as a “health nut” who practiced a notably healthy lifestyle with no history of unwellness.

“This was his first time ever in a hospital,” Green told NPR. “He didn’t even have a doctor because he never was sick.”

Since Dean’s death, Spirit spokesperson Joe Buccino has made the following statement: “Our thoughts are with Josh Dean’s family. This sudden loss is stunning news here and for his loved ones.”

Dean’s death follows that of John Barnett’s, which occurred only a little more than two months earlier. Barnett was another employee-turned-whistleblower and former quality manager at Boeing. 

Barnett was an employee at Boeing for 32 years as a quality control manager at a South Carolina plant producing Boeing Dreamliners before retiring in 2016. In his time at Boeing, Barnett had noticed all too many instances of malpractice and neglectful production. In a 2019 interview by The New York Times, Barnett stated that he had discovered “clusters of metal slivers hanging over the wiring that commands the flight controls” and warned of “catastrophic” consequences if the slivers were to penetrate the wires. However, when Barnett raised these concerns to his bosses, he was waved off and subsequently relocated to another part of the plant. Barnett later recounted in the 2022 Netflix documentary Downfall: The Case Against Boeing that he was harassed by Boeing whenever he brought up concerns: “Boeing quit listening to [its] employees. So every time I’d raise my hand and say, ‘hey we got a problem here,’ [it] would attack the messenger and… and ignore the message.”

Barnett had opened a lawsuit against Boeing in 2017, accusing the aircraft company of retaliating against his whistleblowing and “seeking damages including back pay, lost benefits, and emotional distress.” The legal proceedings were still active as of March.

Barnett was to testify against Boeing as part of an ongoing deposition on Saturday, March 9. However, Barnett never made it to the questioning. When he did not appear at Boeing’s defense firm as scheduled, a worried friend contacted the hotel he was staying at for answers – Barnett was then soon found dead in his car with a “self-inflicted” gunshot wound on his head and a “silver handgun” in his hand. According to his lawyers and loved ones, Barnett had been very enthusiastic and resolved about proceeding with the case, and had shown no signs of depression or dejection.

“He was in a good mood the evening before, so looking forward to testifying on Saturday,” Robert Turkewitz, one of Barnett’s lawyers, said, according to Yahoo. “Although he was tired, I saw no sign he was in distress.”

In response to Barnett’s passing, Boeing had the following to say, as per The New York Post: “We are saddened by Mr. Barnett’s passing, and our thoughts are with his family and friends.”

In the meantime, the deaths of these two whistleblowers have cast a spotlight of scrutiny on Boeing’s brand. According to Forbes, Boeing’s stock has been steadily descending since January of this year after the infamous Alaska Airlines incident set a worrying backdrop for further incidents to come. Boeing’s stock took another plummet earlier this week on May 12, after it was announced in The New York Times that Boeing had failed almost 40% of the Federal Aviation Administration’s audits, and Spirit AeroSystems had failed a whopping 54% of federal audits. In 2024 updates for the S&P 500, Boeing currently sits gloomily as the second-worst-performing company.

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About the Contributor
Linda Xing
Linda Xing, Staff Writer
Linda Xing ('25) is excited to be a Staff Writer for The Echo this year.