Another Boeing Whistleblower Dies Unexpectedly

Joshua Dean, a 45-year-old quality auditor at Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Kansas, died Tuesday after a sudden and aggressive infection.

Dean was among the first whistleblowers to claim that Spirit, a major supplier for Boeing, had ignored defects on the controversial 737 MAX airliner.

Tragically, Dean’s death comes just weeks after another Boeing whistleblower, John Barnett, was found dead in a truck outside his South Carolina hotel during depositions in Charleston.

Both Dean and Barnett were represented by the same law firm and had raised concerns about quality control issues within Boeing’s supply chain.

According to his aunt, Carol Parsons, Dean was hospitalized two weeks before his death due to breathing difficulties.

His condition rapidly deteriorated as he developed pneumonia and MRSA, a drug-resistant staph infection. Despite being flown to a hospital in Oklahoma City and placed on advanced life support, Dean succumbed to the aggressive illness.

Dean, a mechanical engineer with extensive experience, had been fired from Spirit in April 2023, allegedly for mishandling inspections.

However, he maintained that his termination was retaliation for repeatedly flagging errors on the factory floor that he claimed supervisors had ignored.

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In a November 2023 wrongful termination complaint to the Department of Labor, Dean outlined his concerns.

A former colleague, Lance Thompson, attested to Dean’s meticulous nature, saying, “There was value in what he did, and he found some things you might not expect to.” Thompson suggested that Dean’s attention to detail may have frustrated mechanics on the factory floor.

In January, investors filed a federal class action lawsuit against Spirit, alleging financial damage due to the company’s stock plummeting amidst the quality control scandal.

The complaint included Dean’s allegations that he was threatened when attempting to bring defects to his superiors’ attention. One such defect involved improperly drilled holes on a 737 MAX component critical for maintaining cabin pressure during flight.

Dean’s deposition indicated that Spirit’s workforce had been significantly impacted by the pandemic, with many experienced workers leaving or being laid off.

He suggested that this turnover led to “more rework and repairs that had to be performed” due to declining work quality. These issues were allegedly exacerbated by the company’s “culture of not wanting to look for or to find problems.”

In a statement to the Wall Street Journal, Dean said, “It is known at Spirit that if you make too much noise and cause too much trouble, you will be moved.” He added, “It doesn’t mean you completely disregard stuff, but they don’t want you to find everything and write it up.”

Brian Knowles, the attorney who represented both Dean and Barnett, described Dean’s passing as “a loss to the aviation community and the flying public,” praising his “tremendous courage to stand up for what he felt was true and right.”

The sudden deaths of two Boeing whistleblowers, both represented by the same lawyer and raising similar concerns about quality control, raise unsettling questions.

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The rapid progression of Dean’s illness has left doctors and family members perplexed, with his sister-in-law, Kristen Dean, describing his condition as “the worst” she had ever known or heard of.