Boeing Whistleblower Found Dead Amid Lawsuits Directed at the Company

By: Julia Mehalko | Published: Mar 19, 2024

John Barnett, a Boeing whistleblower, has been found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Barnett’s death comes as he was answering questions in a deposition in his dispute with Boeing.

According to his law team and family, Barnett’s death has come as a complete shock. His attorneys are asking for a full and complete investigation.

John Barnett Found Dead

Barnett was supposed to answer questions in a deposition on the day he was found dead. When his legal team grew worried when he didn’t show up, they called him. However, all their calls went unanswered.

An airplane up in the air against a cloudy blue sky.

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This then led them to call the hotel he was staying at, which ultimately led to Barnett’s body being found in his truck in the hotel parking lot.

What the Police Are Saying

According to the Charleston County Coroner’s Office, Barnett died from a “self-inflicted gunshot wound.” Now, the Charleston Police Department will continue the investigation regarding his death.

Red and white lights lit up in the evening on top of a police car.

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Barnett lived in Louisiana. He was only in South Carolina because of his ongoing legal dispute with Boeing, who he has accused of disregarding safety standards in their quest to build more planes.

What His Lawyers Are Saying

Barnett’s lawyers have been completely shocked by this news. Brian Knowles, one of Barnett’s attorneys, explained to outlets that the whistleblower’s death has come amid his ongoing legal fight against Boeing.

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“John had been back and forth for quite some time getting prepared,” Knowles said about Barnett’s preparation to continue his deposition. Knowles also explained that the day of Barnett’s death would have been “day three of his deposition here in Charleston on his AIR21 case.”

Barnett’s Lawyers Are Shocked

Barnett’s lawyers also released a statement saying they are completely surprised by this news, as Barnett was in good spirits throughout this last week.

A Boeing plane flying at an angle amid a gray sky.

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“John was in the midst of a deposition in his whistleblower retaliation case, which finally was nearing the end,” Knowles said with his co-counsel Robert Turkewitz in a statement. “He was in very good spirits and really looking forward to putting this phase of his life behind him and moving on.”

His Lawyers Saw No Warning Signs

Barnett’s attorneys have also explained in a statement they didn’t see any warning signs when working with the whistleblower this past week.

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“We didn’t see any indication he would take his own life,” their statement said. “No one can believe it.”


Attorneys Demand an Investigation

Because they saw no warning signs — and because Barnett was in the middle of a deposition — Barnett’s lawyers are demanding a full and complete investigation into his death.

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“We need more information about what happened to John,” they said. “No detail can be left unturned.”


What Barnett’s Family Is Saying

Barnett’s family have also released their own statements about his passing. Though they didn’t open up about the deposition as his lawyers did, his family did explain they believe Boeing’s hostile environment is ultimately responsible for his death.

A plane in the air in the distance against a dark blue sky.

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Barnett’s brother, Rodney Barnett, said that the whistleblower “was suffering from PTSD and anxiety attacks as a result of being subjected to the hostile work environment at Boeing, which we believe led to his death.”


Barnett’s Claims Against Boeing

Barnett worked at Boeing for more than three decades until he retired in 2017. During his time at Boeing, Barnett was a quality control engineer and a manager. However, in the last few years, he had become increasingly vocal about Boeing’s lack of safety standards.

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Barnett made allegations that Boeing was making very serious safety breaches when creating planes. After making these allegations, he also claimed that Boeing went out of their way to hurt his career and reputation. This led to a whistleblower retaliation case.


Boeing’s Plane Problems

In recent years — and especially in the past few months — Boeing has faced a slew of bad publicity, thanks to various plane problems. After two 2019 Boeing plane crashes killed everyone on board, Barnett said that many workers were cutting corners to meet production deadlines.

A Boeing plane seen flying in the sky during a sunset, making the sky orange.

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According to Barnett, these workers were putting faulty parts on planes to meet these deadlines. Though he told Boeing managers and the FAA, Barnett said nothing was done.


The Alaska Airlines Boeing Emergency

In January of 2024, Barnett again made headlines after an Alaska Airlines Boeing plane made an emergency landing after its exit doors blew out while it was in the air. Many airlines temporarily grounded their Boeing 737-9 planes.

An Alaska Airlines plane on the tarmac by green grass in the daytime.

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However, Barnett claimed it wasn’t just those specific planes that were problematic. “This is not a 737 problem, this is a Boeing problem,” he said.


Boeing’s Response

When Barnett brought up safety concerns when he was still employed at Boeing, managers told him to stop filing these concerns in writing. One performance review even stated that Barnett needed to better improve at “working in the gray areas and help find a way while maintaining compliance.”

A Boeing plane in the air against a clear blue sky.

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Upon Barnett’s death being announced, Boeing released a statement. “We are saddened by Mr. Barnett’s passing, and our thoughts are with his family and friends,” the company said.