Boeing whistleblower found dead in a parking lot

At the time of his death, Barnett was in Charleston to testify in the case against Boeing. He was scheduled to testify today.

John Barnett, a former Boeing employee who exposed alleged safety issues within the company, was found dead on Saturday in the parking lot of a hotel in South Carolina. Barnett, 62, died from “self-inflicted” injuries, as confirmed by a coroner in Charleston County.

Barnett had worked for seven years as a quality control manager at Boeing’s factory in Charleston. During his time at the company, he highlighted what he described as poor practices in the manufacturing process, noting that employees had installed lower-quality parts on aircraft due to pressure to produce quickly.

His concerns were partially validated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 2017, leading Boeing to take corrective actions. However, Barnett claimed that after his retirement that same year, the company defamed him and hindered his professional progression for exposing issues in the factory.

Barnett was in South Carolina to testify in a lawsuit against Boeing when he was found dead in his truck. His death comes amid intense scrutiny of Boeing after a section of an Alaska Airlines aircraft fuselage fell off mid-flight over Oregon in January.

An FAA investigation released last week found “multiple instances” of non-compliance with manufacturing quality control requirements by Boeing and one of its suppliers. This has raised concerns about the safety of aircraft manufactured by the company and has led to a 25 percent drop in Boeing’s stock price so far this year.

The US Department of Justice has initiated a criminal investigation into the matter. Meanwhile, Boeing has announced that bonus payments to employees in 2024 will be tied to safety and quality, rather than revenue.

A Boeing spokesperson expressed condolences for Barnett’s death, stating, “We are saddened by Mr. Barnett’s passing and our thoughts are with his family and friends.”

Both the BBC and TMZ, citing South Carolina authorities, indicate that the 62-year-old man may have died from what appears to be a self-inflicted wound on March 9, in an apparent suicide, although police are still investigating the case.

Barnett had worked for Boeing for 32 years until his retirement in 2017, and in the days leading up to his death, he had been testifying in a lawsuit against Boeing, according to the BBC, whose information has been echoed by US outlets such as The Hill and Fox.

Barnett came into the public eye in 2019 when he revealed to the BBC that Boeing had sped up production of its 787 Dreamliner aircraft, jeopardizing passenger safety.

According to him, emergency oxygen systems designed for the 787 Dreamliners had a failure rate of 25%. This meant that one in every four 787 Dreamliners had the potential to rapidly lose oxygen in the event of sudden cabin decompression, endangering passengers.

Barnett shared these details with the BBC based on his experience as a quality manager at a Boeing plant in North Charleston, South Carolina, where the 787 Dreamliners were produced, aircraft particularly used for long-haul flights.

At the time, Boeing rejected his accusations. However, a review conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) supported some of Barnett’s concerns.

In a statement to the BBC, Boeing expressed sadness at the death of its former employee.

“We are saddened by Mr. Barnett’s passing and extend our condolences to his family and friends,” Boeing said, as reported by the British broadcaster.

Meanwhile, Barnett’s lawyer described his death as “tragic” in remarks to the BBC.

At the time of his death, Barnett was in Charleston to testify in the case against Boeing.

The previous week, he had been questioned by both Boeing’s attorneys and his own lawyers. He was scheduled to testify again on Saturday to answer more questions, but he did not appear for the hearing.

Later, he was found dead in his truck in the hotel parking lot where he was staying, as reported to the BBC by the Charleston County coroner.

His death comes at a time when Boeing is under scrutiny from US authorities for the manufacturing process of the 737-9 (MAX) aircraft model, following an incident in January where a panel detached during flight.

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