Boeing whistleblower dies from 'fast-spreading' infection at 45

The whistleblower raised concerns about production defects and faced alleged retaliation.

Boeing whistleblower dies from 'fast-spreading' infection at 45
Andy Atkinson/Rogue Valley Times via AP, File
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Joshua Dean, a 45-year-old man who raised concerns about a Boeing supplier ignoring production defects, died on Tuesday while battling a fast-spreading infection, according to his family. Dean, a resident of Wichita, Kansas, was reportedly a healthy middle-aged man before being admitted to the hospital two weeks ago with difficulty breathing.

Dean's aunt, Carol Parsons, told the Seattle Times that her nephew's condition became so severe that he was airlifted to a hospital in Oklahoma City and placed on an ECMO machine, which takes over a patient's heart and lung functions when they're not working independently. Despite medical intervention, Dean developed pneumonia and MRSA, an infection that makes it difficult for a person to breathe, ultimately leading to his death.

Prior to his death, Dean worked as a quality auditor at Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems. He was reportedly fired by Spirit in April 2023 and subsequently filed a complaint with the Department of Labor, alleging that the company had retaliated against him for raising concerns about aviation safety. Dean claimed that in 2022, he had sounded the alarm on an alleged manufacturing defect involving mechanics improperly drilling holes in the MAX's aft pressure bulkhead, but management allegedly failed to address his concern.

In addition to the Department of Labor complaint, Dean had given a deposition in a Spirit shareholder lawsuit and filed a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration. In his complaint, he alleged "serious and gross misconduct by senior quality management of the 737 production line" at Spirit. Dean was represented by the same law firm that represented Boeing whistleblower John Barnett, who was found dead in March from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound after alleging retaliation by Boeing for filing complaints related to quality lapses.

Boeing has faced increased scrutiny in recent months, with federal authorities investigating the cause of a door plug coming off mid-flight on an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 earlier this year. The company claims to have "worked proactively and transparently" to support the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation.

Meanwhile, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has launched an investigation into the "organization, conduct, and management" of Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems, as well as the company's diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) commitments, to determine whether those commitments are unlawful or compromising manufacturing processes.

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