Boeing 737 Max whistleblower Joshua Dean, 45, dead after sudden illness

Click to play video: '2nd Boeing safety whistleblower dies, lawyers say death is ‘loss to aviation community’'
2nd Boeing safety whistleblower dies, lawyers say death is ‘loss to aviation community’
WATCH: Joshua Dean's attorneys, Brian Knowles and Rob Turkewitz, are calling Dean's death a “loss to the aviation community.” – May 3, 2024

A second whistleblower to raise concerns about the safety of Boeing aircraft has died.

Joshua Dean, 45, was a former quality auditor for Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Kan. He worked on the Boeing 737 Max program and filed a formal whistleblower complaint to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 2023 over improper manufacturing practices he witnessed. He had been fired months before, allegedly in retaliation for bringing up safety concerns with Spirit management.

His death comes two months after Boeing whistleblower John Barrett was found dead of an apparent suicide a day after testifying against the planemaker.

Click to play video: 'Boeing whistleblower found dead 1 day after testifying against planemaker'
Boeing whistleblower found dead 1 day after testifying against planemaker

Dean died in hospital Tuesday morning after his family says his health deteriorated suddenly. He was in critical condition for two weeks after he started experiencing difficulty breathing. He tested positive for influenza B and an MRSA staph infection and later developed pneumonia, according to a Facebook post from Dean’s mother.

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As his condition worsened, he was put on dialysis and had to be transferred to a hospital in Oklahoma City to be hooked up to an ECMO machine, which takes over vital heart and lung functions by pumping blood out of the body to be oxygenated before circulating it back in. Doctors also conducted a CT scan and learned Dean had experienced a stroke.

“My son is fighting for his life,” Dean’s mother wrote at the time. “His lungs are completely whited out.”

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“Doctor says because of him being young and strong he has that going for him,” she added.

Dean had previously been in good health, according to the Seattle Times, which first reported on Dean’s death, and he was noted for having a healthy lifestyle.

As Dean’s health worsened, doctors considered amputating his hands and feet.

“His hands and feet are black,” Dean’s sister-in-law Kristen wrote on Facebook. “He is in the worst condition of anyone I have ever known or heard of.”

Towards the end, Dean’s family wrote that he was depressed and refusing treatment. A day before he died he underwent a bronchoscopy and made it through the procedure. The next morning he passed away.

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Dean’s sister wrote that he was “in heaven” with their younger brother, who had previously died.

“I don’t know how much more my family can take. I don’t know how much more I can take honestly,” she wrote.

Dean’s aunt Carol Parsons told the Seattle Times that it was “brutal” and “heartbreaking” what her nephew went through.

Spirit spokesperson Joe Buccino told the outlet that the company’s “thoughts are with Josh Dean’s family. This sudden loss is stunning news here and for his loved ones.”

Dean was being represented by the same law firm that also represented Barnett before he died. Barnett, 62, was supposed to be in a deposition to answer questions related to a lawsuit against Boeing when he failed to show up to the meeting. The hotel where he was staying found him dead in his truck from a self-inflicted wound. The investigation into his death is still ongoing.

Dean’s lawyer Brian Knowles told the Seattle Times that he didn’t want to speculate about the two deaths, and as of now there is zero evidence connecting them.

“It’s a difficult set of circumstances. Our thoughts now are with John’s family and Josh’s family,” he said, adding that it “takes a lot of courage” to be a whistleblower.

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“Whistleblowers are needed. They bring to light wrongdoing and corruption in the interests of society.”

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All 787 Dreamliners should be grounded, Boeing whistleblower warns

Dean alleged in complaints filed to the FAA that he witnessed serious manufacturing flaws in the construction of fuselage parts made for the Boeing 737 Max. Spirit AeroSystems constructs parts for Boeing airplanes that are sent to Boeing for final assembly.

He claims he saw mechanics incorrectly drilling holes in the rear section of the fuselage (called the aft pressure bulkhead), and improperly fitting vertical tail fins to the fuselage, the Seattles Times reports.

The Boeing 737 Max plane came under intense public scrutiny in January when a door plug blew off an Alaska Airlines flight in mid-air. A series of other high-profile accidents involving Boeing planes followed and the company’s CEO announced in March that he will be stepping down at the end of the year.

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