Second Boeing Whistleblower Dies in Span of 2 Months

A whistleblower who accused a Boeing supplier of ignoring manufacturing defects on the 737 Max died on Tuesday.

The former Spirit AeroSystems employee Josh Dean, 45, died after contracting a sudden illness, according to reports by family members on social media, The Seattle Times reported on Wednesday. Josh’s aunt, Carol Parsons, told the outlet that Dean went to the hospital after he had trouble breathing some two weeks ago. His mother is said to have written on Facebook that he contracted pneumonia in April and suffered a stroke following an MSRA infection (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).  

Josh testified against Spirit in a shareholder lawsuit last year, with the former quality auditor accusing the company of poor quality control in the production of Boeing’s 737 Max.

The company’s unorthodox engineering practices came under scrutiny after The New York Times reported in March that the Federal Aviation Administration had seen it use liquid Dawn soap to lubricate a 737 Max door seal.

Spirit later said it tried using other household products such as Vaseline and cornstarch as lubricants before it settled on using Dawn soap, The New York Times reported. It told the outlet that Dawn soap was documented under the FAA’s standards as a viable factory tool.

Josh told The Wall Street Journal in January that Spirit fired him for pointing out wrongly drilled holes in fuselages.

“It is known at Spirit that if you make too much noise and cause too much trouble, you will be moved,” Josh told the Journal. “It doesn’t mean you completely disregard stuff, but they don’t want you to find everything and write it up.”

Spirit told the Journal it disagreed with Josh’s assertions, adding that it would defend itself in court.

“Our thoughts are with Josh Dean’s family. This sudden loss is stunning news here and for his loved ones,” Joe Buccino, a spokesperson for Spirit AeroSystems, told The Seattle Times.

Josh’s death came after the death of the Boeing whistleblower John Barnett, 62. Barnett died in March, in the middle of his deposition against Boeing.

The Charleston County coroner’s office told Business Insider in a statement that the former Boeing manager died from “what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.” No further details were provided.

Josh’s lawyer, Brian Knowles, told The Seattle Times that he didn’t want to speculate about the timing and circumstances of Josh’s death. Knowles also represented Barnett.

“Whistleblowers are needed. They bring to light wrongdoing and corruption in the interests of society. It takes a lot of courage to stand up,” Knowles said.

For its part, Boeing has come under heightened scrutiny following repeated quality-assurance lapses.

During its earnings call last month, Boeing disclosed it had posted a net loss of $355 million in its latest quarter. The company said it burned through $3.9 billion in cash in the year’s first quarter.

“Near term, yes, we are in a tough moment,” Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said in a letter to his employees on April 24.

Representatives for Knowles and Spirit AeroSystems didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment from BI sent outside regular business hours.