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Boeing Whistleblower Found Dead In Charleston

Death ruled a suicide but suspicions of foul play abound …

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A whistleblower who spent decades as a quality control manager for crony capitalist aerospace giant Boeing was found dead in his truck at his hotel in Charleston, South Carolina on Saturday morning.

John Barnett, 62, of Pineville, Louisiana died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head – although suspicions of foul play were understandably running rampant given his ongoing efforts to expose one of the largest, most powerful companies in the world. Such concerns gained additional traction considering Barnett was in the middle of depositions in a whistleblower lawsuit at the time of his death.

Barnett’s cause of death was announced by Charleston County’s chief deputy coroner, Brittney Martin. An investigation into his death is being led by the Charleston, S.C. police department.

Barnett spent 28 years with Boeing at its Everett, Washington headquarters. In 2010, he was transferred to the company’s taxpayer-subsidized North Charleston facility – which manufactures the much-maligned 787 Dreamliner. He retired from the company in 2017, and shortly thereafter began exposing shoddy workmanship at Boeing – especially at its Palmetto State location.

(Click to View)

John Barnett (X via BBC)

Our media outlet referenced Barnett’s work in several previous articles about Boeing (see here and here).

“I haven’t seen a plane out of Charleston yet that I would consider safe and airworthy,” Barnett told reporter Nadia Daly of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in January of 2020.

In January of this year, Barnett spoke out again about production defects on Boeing planes – specifically the 737 Max – and the company’s culture of silencing those who sought to put safety first.

“Once you understand what’s happening inside of Boeing, you’ll see why we’re seeing these kinds of issues,” he told her. “This is a Boeing issue, this is not a 737 issue.”

“Their culture is all about speed and production,” Barnett added. “Any issues, any concerns that you bring up are going to slow them down.”

(Click to View)

Aircraft cockpit of Boeing 737 800 Max. (Getty)

The 737 Max was grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on March 13, 2019 after two crashes left a combined 346 people dead. In both instances, problems with the planes’ automated flight-control systems were singled out as being to blame. The automated flight-control system was intended to prevent the aircraft from stalling, but faulty sensor data reportedly forced pilots to struggle against its unintended activation. The 737 Max returned to flight on December 29, 2020, but has continued to be dogged by problems.

Just this week, The New York Times reported Boeing had failed 33 of 89 performance audits tied to the 737 Max’s manufacturing process. The FAA initiated its inquiry after the fuselage panel of an Alaska Airlines jet blew out mid-flight on January 5, 2024. The plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Portland, Oregon.

Also this week, The Wall Street Journal reported the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has launched a criminal investigation into the Alaska Airlines incident – seeking to determine whether Boeing violated the terms of its January 2021 settlement with the agency following the two fatal crashes.

Boeing paid out $2.5 billion in that settlement – $1.77 billion to 737 Max customers, $500 million to the families of the crash victims and a “criminal monetary penalty” of $243.6 million to the federal government.

Barnett’s attorney, Brian Knowles, referred to his client’s death as “a tragic day.” According to Knowles, Barnett was on the final day of an extended deposition in a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit.



“(We) kept calling this morning and his phone would go to voicemail,” Knowles told Corporate Crime Reporter. “We then asked the hotel to check on him.”

Shortly before 10:30 a.m. EDT, Charleston police were dispatched for the purposes of conducting a “welfare check” on Barnett at the Holiday Inn Riverview – located at 301 Savannah Highway just across the Ashley River from downtown Charleston.

“They found him in his truck dead from an ‘alleged’ self-inflicted gunshot,” Knowles said. “We drove to the hotel and spoke with the police and the coroner.”

Knowles wasn’t the only one who believed his client’s death wasn’t a suicide. Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. made it clear he believed foul play was involved in Barnett’s death.

“The company worked to destroy his life after he exposed safety concerns,” Kennedy wrote on X. “I’m proud that my sister Rory worked to tell his story in her award winning documentary Downfall: The Case Against Boeing. Boeing killed 346 people out of greed. Let’s hope there is a genuine investigation of John Barnett’s ‘suicide.'”

Barnett’s obituary described him as a “beloved son, brother, and uncle,” and referenced his decorated career with Boeing – saying he “received numerous awards for exemplifying pride, integrity, and excellence before retiring.”

Services for Barnett will be held at Hixson Brothers Funeral Home in Alexandria, Louisiana on Saturday, March 16, 2024, at 11:00 a.m. CDT, the obituary noted.



(Travis Bell Photography)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina and before that he was a bass guitarist and dive bar bouncer. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and eight children.



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Anonymous March 12, 2024 at 12:58 am

How convenient for Boeing….

Clemson McDaniel III March 12, 2024 at 8:35 am

Come to South Carolina where there are no unions so you don’t have to worry about your workers just like in slave times and if you get into trouble the good ole boy oligarch network will cover you all the way through the courts. Only…just like to Vlad you’ll have to pay a little on the side to the oligarchs here to stay in business….but hell we do it with a smile on our faces and bless your heart at the same time….clearly we are better christian people.

Red Uprising March 12, 2024 at 9:13 am

It always falls to the responsibility of labor to deal with the corruption of hierarchy.

Goody3 Top fan March 12, 2024 at 10:18 am

Sad news for his family – RIP. BAD news for Boeing……….

Jeff Mattox Top fan March 12, 2024 at 2:03 pm

What type of gun was found? The 88’s with a badge will never solve the case and will instead take the easy way out. Suicide we’re telling you! Suicide! Shut up! Nothing to see here people! Move along.

JustCallMeAva Top fan March 13, 2024 at 7:50 am

Considering that Boeing has no issues whatsoever with jeopardizing the lives of many people, daily, around the world, with their shoddy aircraft, is it really so hard to believe they’d have no problem knocking a whistleblower off? Not that the Charleston police will ever figure it out.


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