Questions swirl around “suicide” of Boeing whistleblower- National & International News- 21March 2024



Questions swirl around “suicide” of Boeing whistleblower John Barnett. Family friend says Barnett warned, “if anything happens to me, it’s not suicide.”

Questions swirl around “suicide” of Boeing whistleblower

On March 9, John Barnett, 62, was found dead of an “apparent” suicide according to police in Charleston, SC. Barnett was found in his pickup truck in the parking lot outside the Holiday Inn. He had been staying at that hotel while giving depositions in an explosive whistleblower retaliation suit against Boeing. A silver pistol was apparently found in Barnett’s hand and a scribbled note was found on the passenger seat.

Following the announcement of Barnett’s death last week, a family friend spoke out, saying that in a previous conversation, Barnett had warned her not to believe it if it was ever reported that he committed suicide. “I know he did not commit suicide. There’s no way,” the friend said. “He loved life too much, he loved his family too much, he loved his brothers too much to put them through what they’re going through right now”.

Barnett’s attorneys Rob Turkewitz and Brian Knowles were equally skeptical, calling for his death to be “fully investigated”. On the morning of the 9th, Turkewitz called the Holiday Inn when Barnett didn’t show up to his 9am deposition. Curiously, when the hotel staff checked Barnett’s room, they found that all his belongings were packed for his return trip to Louisiana. Shortly after checking his room, hotel staff found Barnett dead in his truck.

Barnett had planned on beginning his two-day drive back to his home in Louisiana on the 8th. However, Boeing’s lawyers insisted he stay one more day to complete his testimony. Barnett’s lawyers initially objected, but according to Turkewitz, Barnett told him “Let’s just get it done. I’ve already been waiting for seven years”. The next day, Barnett was found dead.

“Explosive stuff”

Barnett had worked for Boeing for over 30 years, mostly at the Everett, WA plant. In his final years with the company, he was sent to oversee quality management at the plant in North Charleston, SC. As part of his whistleblower retaliation suit (first filed in 2017), Barnett had been giving sworn statements about the poor safety culture and shoddy manufacturing practices he’d observed at the North Charleston plant. Barnett observed glaring violations of safety protocols (including dozens of instances where mechanics installed faulty components on planes). Rather than acting on his written complaints, Boeing management retaliated against him, Barnett claimed.

After 7 years, Barnett left the company after being “harassed, denigrated, humiliated, and treated with scorn and contempt by upper management,” according to his lawsuit. He has since given several media interviews detailing his concerns with the safety culture, or lack thereof, at the Charleston plan. In 2019, Barnett told the New York Times, “I haven’t seen a plane out of Charleston yet that I’d put my name on saying it’s safe and airworthy”.

According to Turkewitz, during his depositions, Barnett “was really happy to be telling his side of the story, excited to be fielding our questions, doing a great job. It was explosive stuff. As I’m sitting there, I’m thinking, ‘This is the best witness I’ve ever seen”. At one point, a Boeing lawyer expressed surprise that Barnett was able to recall such detail in events that took place over a decade ago without referring to documents. Barnett responded, “I know these documents inside out. I’ve had to live it”.

Bad time for Boeing

Barnett’s testimony came at a perilous time for Boeing, which is facing increased scrutiny for following several high-profile safety incidents involving its planes since the start of 2024. On January 5, a Boeing 737 Max 9 airplane operated by Alaska Airlines lost a door plug at 16,000 feet. Airlines flying 737 Max planes in the US grounded them for several days to conduct inspections. Other door plugs on these planes were found to have loose or missing bolts.

At the end of January, John Barnett spoke to TMZ about the incident. “This isn’t a 737 problem; it’s a Boeing problem,” Barnett said. Barnett spoke a

Then on February 6, another 737 Max operated by United Airlines experienced jammed flight controls.

At the beginning of March, the FAA flagged issues with de-icing systems on 737 Max and 787 Dreamliners that could cause engine trouble. there have been several other serious malfunctions on other Boeing airplanes.

On March 7, a United Airlines-operated 777-200 lost a tire from its landing gear while taking off from the San Francisco airport.

On March 11, a Latam Airlines flight from Australia to New Zealand suddenly plunged with such force that several passengers were flung up to the ceiling, then crashed back down on the seats. Over 50 people were seriously injured. The Latam flight was a 787 Dreamliner, the plane produced at the Charleston plant where Barnett worked.


0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.