Boeing whistleblower John Barnett found dead

Coroner’s office in US state of South Carolina says 62-year-old former Boeing employee died on Saturday.

Boeing's safety record has been under intense scrutiny in recent years [Samuel Corum/Getty Images via AFP]

A former Boeing employee who blew the whistle on alleged safety problems at the aircraft manufacturing giant has been found dead.

John Barnett, 62, died on Saturday from an apparent “self-inflicted” wound, a coroner in South Carolina in the United States said on Monday.

“Charleston City Police Department is the investigating agency. No further details are available at this time,” the office of Charleston County Coroner Bobbi Jo O’Neal told Al Jazeera in a statement.

Brian Knowles and Robert Turkewitz, lawyers who represented Barnett, said their client had been in the midst of a deposition in a lawsuit against Boeing after suffering retaliation and a hostile work environment for exposing serious safety problems with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

“He was in very good spirits and really looking forward to putting this phase of his life behind him and moving on. We didn’t see any indication he would take his own life,” Knowles and Turkewitz told Al Jazeera in a statement which described Barnett as a “brave, honest man of the highest integrity.”

“No one can believe it.  We are all devasted. We need more information about what happened to John. The Charleston police need to investigate this fully and accurately and tell the public what they find out. No detail can be left unturned.”

Boeing, where Barnett worked for more than three decades until his retirement in 2017, expressed condolences at the news of his death.

“We are saddened by Mr. Barnett’s passing, and our thoughts are with his family and friends,” the Seattle-based aircraft manufacturer told Al Jazeera in a statement.

In 2019, Barnett was quoted by the BBC alleging that Boeing had deliberately fitted planes with faulty parts and that passengers on its 787 Dreamliner could be left without oxygen in the event of a sudden decompression.

Boeing denied Barnett’s claims at the time, insisting that it adhered to the highest safety standards.

In 2014, an Al Jazeera investigation released after the Dreamliner was briefly grounded following two battery failures revealed that workers at Boeing’s Charleston plant had serious concerns about the aircraft’s safety.


Boeing, which dominates the market for commercial aircraft along with Netherlands-based Airbus, has been under intense scrutiny over its safety record since two fatal crashes involving the Boeing 737 MAX in 2018 and 2019.

On Monday, dozens of people suffered injuries, most of them minor, when their Boeing aircraft en route to New Zealand from Australia experienced what airline officials described as a “strong movement” caused by a “technical event”.

The incident was the latest in a series of safety-related events since the beginning of March, including an engine fire that forced a Boeing 737 to make an emergency landing in Houston, Texas shortly after takeoff.

On Saturday, US media outlets reported that prosecutors had opened a criminal investigation into January’s mid-flight blowout of a Boeing 737 MAX operated by Alaska Airlines.

A preliminary report by the US National Transportation Safety Board into the incident found evidence suggesting that four key bolts designed to hold the door in place had been missing.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said last week it had given Boeing 90 days to come up with a plan to correct problems in its production and shortage procedures following an audit that identified “non-compliance issues”.

A separate FAA report released last month found serious problems with Boeing’s safety culture, including fears of retaliation among employees with safety concerns.

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Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies