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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke May 8, 2024

Boeing whistleblowers died of infection, gunshot wound

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  • Two Boeing Co.-linked whistleblowers recently died within two months of each other. Joshua Dean died following a MRSA bacterial infection; John Barnett died of what a coroner’s office said appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound, though police are still investigating his death. 

A recent Facebook post claims that two men were killed after raising concerns about conduct at Boeing, the beleaguered aerospace company.

"Second Boeing whistleblower killed in 2 months!" a May 4 Facebook post said.

"Another Boeing whistleblower has died — what a weird coincidence that is, right?" a man in the post’s video says as a headline from a People magazine story appears. "Two Boeing whistleblowers dying under mysterious circumstances back-to-back in a matter of only two months, man that’s peculiar, isn’t it?" 

The May 2 People headline said: "Boeing-linked whistleblower dead, the second in 2 months: ‘He possessed tremendous courage,’ lawyers say."

This Facebook post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

The People story doesn’t say that anyone was killed. Rather, it reported on the April 30 death of Joshua Dean. Dean was a former quality auditor at Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems and one of the first whistleblowers to allege Spirit had ignored manufacturing defects on the Boeing 737 Max, according to The Seattle Times. He died "after a struggle with a sudden, fast-spreading infection," the newspaper said. Dean’s aunt Carol Parsons told the Times that Dean became ill and went to the hospital in mid-April because he was having trouble breathing. 

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Dean’s family told NPR that he quickly fell into critical condition after being diagnosed with a MRSA bacterial infection. 

In March, John "Mitch" Barnett, a former Boeing quality inspector who filed a whistleblower complaint over alleged plane safety flaws, was found dead.

The Charleston County Coroner’s Office in South Carolina said in a statement that Barnett died March 11 "from what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound." 

His attorneys said in a statement that they didn’t "see any indication he would take his own life" and urged local police to keep investigating despite the coroner’s initial ruling, NBC News reported.

Almost two months later, the Times reported, the police investigation into his death continues. Dean died of an infection, according to family and news reports, and as of May 7, there was no sign that Barnett had been killed. If that changes, we’ll reconsider our ruling. 

For now, this claim is False.


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