REPORT: Boeing Whistleblower Found Dead Days After Submitting Evidence Against Company

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John Oyewale Contributor
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A former longtime Boeing employee-turned-whistleblower was found dead Saturday in South Carolina days after appearing in court to testify against Boeing, the BBC reported Monday.

John Barnett, 62, was found dead in his truck in Charleston after failing to appear for further legal questioning. Days prior, he attended an initial deposition involving questioning by Boeing’s lawyers and his own counsel, according to the BBC.

Barnett, who had worked for Boeing for 32 years before retiring in 2017, was found with “what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound,” the Charleston County Coroner’s Office said, according to ABC News 4. The Charleston Police Department is investigating the death.

Barnett’s lawyer told the BBC his client’s death was “tragic”.

“We are saddened by Mr. Barnett’s passing, and our thoughts are with his family and friends,” Boeing said in a statement to the BBC.

Barnett told the BBC back in 2019, two years after retiring on health grounds, that workers under pressure to meet airlines’ demand for Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner had fitted faulty or substandard parts to the airplanes. Some of such parts had been picked up from scrap bins, with the knowledge of a senior manager at the North Charleston, South Carolina, plant where Barnett had worked as a quality manager, Barnett reportedly added.

Barnett also faulted one-fourth of the emergency oxygen systems on the Dreamliner aircraft, BBC reported.

Boeing reportedly refuted his allegations but later admitted some oxygen bottles did not deploy properly.

Another whistleblower, Ed Pierson, reportedly sounded similar warnings back in 2018 about a mass manufacturing rush, worker fatigue and safety compromises. (RELATED: DOJ Launches Criminal Investigation Into Alaska Airlines After Door Plug Blowout)

Boeing has come under increased scrutiny for a string of mishaps, including the temporary grounding of hundreds of 737 MAX 9 airplanes after a plug door fell off one such airplane owned by Alaska Airlines. The U.S. Department of Justice launched a criminal investigation into the incident. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also launched a probe into Boeing over the incident and faulted aspects of its safety culture.

Fifty people were injured Monday following a “technical event” on a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner in New Zealand. A Japan-bound Boeing 777-200 airline belonging to United Airlines lost a tire soon after takeoff March 7. A Colombia-bound Delta Air Lines Boeing 757 aircraft lost its nose cone wheel January while preparing for takeoff from Atlanta, Georgia. A Boeing 747-8 cargo plane belonging to Atlas Air caught fire in mid-flight in January and made an emergency landing.

Late last December, loose bolts in two Boeing 737 MAX aircraft prompted FAA-monitored targeted inspections of all such aircraft. Loose bolts were soon found on no fewer than five of United Airlines’ 737 MAX 9 fleet.

Boeing has been under extra scrutiny since the reported deaths of a total of 346 people in two deadly 737 MAX 8 crashes on Oct. 29, 2018, and March 10, 2019.