Whistleblower Josh Dean of Boeing supplier Spirit Aerosystems dies of 'sudden illness'

  • 02/05/2024

Another whistleblower who publicly spoke out about safety issues with Boeing planes has died, less than two months after fellow whistleblower John Barnett died from a gunshot wound police have yet to finish investigating.

Joshua Dean, a former quality auditor at Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems and one of the first to allege wilful ignorance of manufacturing defects on the notorious 737 MAX, died after a "short and sudden illness", the Seattle Times reports.

The 45-year-old was reportedly "known for a healthy lifestyle" but fell ill and was admitted to hospital a little over two weeks ago due to breathing difficulties. He was subsequently diagnosed with pneumonia and a severe bacterial infection known as MRSA.

Despite various treatments, his condition worsened rapidly before it was revealed he had suffered a stroke, and Dean's mother posted on Facebook on April 26 that he was "fighting for his life".

He died Tuesday morning (local time), the Seattle Times quotes his aunt Carol Parsons as confirming. A Spirit spokesperson said: "Our thoughts are with Josh Dean's family. This sudden loss is stunning news here and for his loved ones."

Dean and Barnett were both represented by the same legal company in South Carolina.

After Barnett died from a gunshot wound in Charleston, the same South Carolina city Boeing has its 787 manufacturing facility, the coroner reported his death appeared to be "self-inflicted"; but the police are yet to complete their investigation into his death.

"They found him in his truck. I don't know what to say. I've never experienced anything like this in my life," one of his lawyers Brian Knowles told media.

Boeing released a statement at the time saying the company was "saddened" by Barnett's death.

Knowles told the Seattle Times he would not speculate on the close timing and circumstances of the two deaths.

“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.

"It's a difficult set of circumstances. Our thoughts now are with John’s family and Josh’s family."

A recent deposition and complaint filed by Dean have brought attention to what he alleged was "serious and gross misconduct by senior quality management" within Spirit's 737 production line.

It came amid heightened scrutiny of a Boeing 737 MAX aircraft and former colleagues of Dean have corroborated some of his claims.

Barnett, who was 62 when he died, was a veteran of 32 years at Boeing and was well known for his vocal criticism of the company's alleged decline in production standards.

He died amid providing testimony in a high-profile legal case against Boeing, having testified just days prior and shortly before he was scheduled for further questioning.