May 30, 2024

Another whistleblower who raised safety concerns about production practices related to Boeing has died. Joshua Dean, who previously worked as a quality auditor at the plane manufacturer’s supplier, Spirit AeroSystems, died Tuesday as the result of a “sudden, fast-spreading infection,” the Seattle Times reports.

Dean, who is described as being a “healthy” 45-year-old who was known for having a “healthy lifestyle,” succumbed to the sudden onset of a bacterial infection known as Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, or MRSA. He died after two weeks in critical condition, the newspaper reports, citing Dean’s aunt.

Boeing used to own Spirit but spun the company off in 2005, the Associated Press previously reported. This year, Boeing announced it was in talks to buy Spirit, with a spokesperson for the company stating that “the reintegration of Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems’ manufacturing operations would further strengthen aviation safety, improve quality and serve the interests of our customers, employees, and shareholders.”

Prior to his death, Dean was engaged in several legal conflicts with Spirit. Dean was fired by the company in April of 2023 and he subsequently filed a Department of Labor complaint alleging that his dismissal had been retaliation for him raising safety concerns, the Times reports. Spirit notably builds key parts of numerous Boeing aircraft, including the fuselages of large passenger planes like the 737 Max. Dean had also filed a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration that accused Spirit of “serious and gross misconduct by senior quality management of the 737 production line.” Dean had also previously given a deposition for a Spirit shareholder lawsuit, the Times writes.

The Times describes Dean’s sudden illness and hospitalization:

Parsons [Dean’s aunt] said Dean became ill and went to hospital because he was having trouble breathing just over two weeks ago. He was intubated and developed pneumonia and then a serious bacterial infection … His condition deteriorated rapidly and he was airlifted from Wichita to a hospital in Oklahoma City, where he was put on an ECMO machine, which circulates and oxygenates a patient’s blood outside the body, taking over heart and lung function when a patient’s organs don’t work on their own, Parsons said.

When reached for comment by Gizmodo, Boeing referred us to Spirit. A representative for Spirit provided the following statement: “Our thoughts are with Josh Dean’s family. This sudden loss is stunning news here at Spirit and for his loved ones.”

Dean is the second Boeing whistleblower to die this year. In March, John Barnett, a former quality control engineer at Boeing, was found dead in a motel parking lot. Officials have said Barnett likely died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Barnett’s death notably spurred online conspiracy theories since, at the time of his death, he was engaged in a lawsuit against Boeing and had accused the company of retaliation against him.

Boeing has been under intense scrutiny from the media and the federal government since an Alaska Airlines flight lost part of its hull in January. Regulators and the general public have raised questions about Boeing’s safety practices, and the company has become the focus of numerous federal investigations, as well as Congressional scrutiny. Last month, several additional whistleblowers testified in front of Congress about what they felt was the company’s disregard for safety. One whistleblower accused the company of being involved in a “criminal cover-up,” while another said that he had been threatened by his boss for raising safety concerns. All of the speakers claimed that Boeing’s practices put planes, and their passengers, at risk.

A version of this article originally appeared on Gizmodo.

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