Following the mysterious deaths of two former employees-turned-whistleblowers in less than two months, Boeing is facing another wave of intense public and government scrutiny—and with at least 10 more whistleblowers in the process of exposing safety concerns, the crisis for Boeing is only getting worse.

As Valuetainment previously reported, 45-year-old Joshua Dean, a quality auditor for Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems, died suddenly from a “sudden, fast-spreading infection” last week after being hospitalized with breathing problems. In 2022, Dean had sounded the alarm over manufacturing defects in Spirit’s components for the Boeing 737 MAX, only to be fired in retaliation less than a year later.

While not necessarily suspicious in and of itself, Dean’s death raised questions given its proximity to the alleged suicide of 62-year-old former Boeing engineer John “Swamp Dog” Barnett in early March. Barnett, who had worked for Boeing for 32 years, was forced into an early retirement in 2017 after warning that the company was cutting corners to speed up production of its 787 Dreamliner jets. Midway through his deposition, Barnett was found dead in his Dodge Ram pickup from a supposedly self-inflicted gunshot wound.

During their various testimonies, both men indicated that they feared reprisals from Boeing.

“I think they were sending out a message to anybody else,” Dean told NPR, adding “If you are too loud, we will silence you.”

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Prior to their deaths, both Dean and Barnett were represented by the same attorneys, Brian Knowles and Robert Turkewitz, and the lawyers now hope that Dean and Barnett’s fates will not prevent other whistleblowers from continuing their efforts to hold Boeing accountable.

“These men were heroes. So are all the whistleblowers. They loved the company and wanted to help the company do better,” Knowles told the New York Post. “They didn’t speak out to be aggravating or for fame. They’re raising concerns because people’s lives are at stake.”

According to the attorneys, there are currently at least 10 other whistleblowers who have come forward with allegations of misconduct against Boeing, with most of them claiming that the company retaliated against them.

Boeing whistleblowers (from left) quality engineer Sam Salehpour; Ed Pierson, executive director of the Foundation for Aviation Safety and a former Boeing engineer; Joe Jacobsen, aerospace engineer and technical adviser to the Foundation for Aviation Safety; and Shawn Pruchnicki, PhD, professional practice assistant professor for integrated systems engineering at the Ohio State University

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Among these whistleblowers is Ed Pierson, a 61-year-old former manager at Boeing’s 737 factory in Renton, Washington. After failing to get the company to shut down production of the 737 MAX after two crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people, Pierson left the company and created the Foundation for Aviation Safety.

“It’s an unstable company right now from the top to the bottom,” Pierson told the Post. “Senior corporate leadership is so fixated on not admitting the truth that they can’t admit anything.”

Another whistleblower is Sam Salehpour, a Boeing engineer who claims to have observed countless safety defects in his decade with the company. Salehpour’s deposition before Congress eventually led to a subpoena for testimony by outgoing Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun.


For more on the suspicious deaths of Boeing whistleblowers, as well as the company’s response, check out this special episode of “Drink Tank: An Unusual Suspects Production.”

Connor Walcott is a staff writer for Follow Connor on X and look for him on VT’s “The Unusual Suspects.”

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