Boeing Whistleblower’s Alleged Suicide Raises Questions

John Barnett was found dead in his pickup truck in a Charleston, South Carolina, hotel parking lot on March 9, just before he was due to testify against Boeing for lax quality control practices. His death, however, is raising questions from freinds and family.

Barnett had been a quality control manager at Boeing for most of his career, and began a whistleblower complaint against the company after leaving.

“As a quality manager at Boeing, you’re the last line of defense before a defect makes it out to the flying public,” Barnett told the New York Times. “And I haven’t seen a plane out of Charleston yet that I’d put my name on saying it’s safe and airworthy.”

“That’s what my story is about, is telling my story enough to where the right people get involved to make sure that these airplanes are made correctly,” Barnett said. “Because the 787 carries 288 passengers plus crew. So the last thing I want to do is wake up in the morning and see a 787 has gone down” because of one of the problems he identified.

“I mean, it’s just, it keeps me up at night,” he said.

The 787 has been in the news lately after a door plug fell off during a recent Alaska Airlines flight, making headlines nationwide and calling Boeing’s quality control into question.

Police were sent to the hotel Barnett was staying at during his court case after his lawyers, Robert Turkewitz and Brian Knowles, were unable to contact him. He was found dead in his vehicle of a gunshot wound to his head, with a gun in his hand. Barnett had been questioned by Boeing’s lawyers the day before, and was due to give more testimony.

“He was in very good spirits and really looking forward to putting this phase of his life behind him and moving on,” the South Carolina-based attorneys said in a joint statement. “We didn’t see any indication he would take his own life. No one can believe it.”

While Brnett’s death has been preliminarily assumed suicide, the investigation is looking deeper than that. Investigators allegedly dusted Barnett’s car for prints, unusual in a case of presumed suicide.

Other Boeing employees also seem to be skeptics.

“It actually gives me a pit in my stomach because of what he’s been saying,” one employee of the aviation giant told the New York Post, “and he’s dead now. Maybe he killed himself.

I don’t know what to believe. We don’t really talk about it on the [assembly] line. We’re on camera from the minute we get on the property. They can hear us. So no one wants to talk about it at work.

A lot of people are skeptical, because he made some pretty powerful enemies.”

A family friend of Barnett shared some concerning comments he had made predicting his own death, telling her not to belive it if the news ever claimed he’d committed suicide.

Barnett’s death is is raising questions among the public and investigators alike. At this point, all we can do is wait for the investigation to come to a close, and hop that someone else takes up his mantle to speak on Boeing’s questionable quality contro practices.

“We are saddened by Mr. Barnett’s passing, and our thoughts are with his family and friends,” Boeing said in a statement sent to NPR.

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