Conspiracy Theories Emerge as Boeing Whistleblower John Barnett Found Dead in Apparent Suicide Amid Deposition

John Barnett Boeing Whistleblower
John Barnett (left) spent 32 years as an employee at Boeing (interior of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 on right) before becoming a whistleblower.Family, Getty Images

John Barnett was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, officials said. His brother said he suffered "from PTSD and anxiety attacks as a result of being subjected to the hostile work environment at Boeing, which we believe led to his death."

Conspiracy theories are gaining traction after the suicide of a whistleblower who made damning allegations about Boeing aircrafts and who was in the middle of giving a deposition about the company when he was found dead earlier this month.

John Barnett, 62, was found dead on March 9 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to a statement from the Charleston County Coroner's Office. That statement also said that the Charleston Police Department is investigating the incident.

A former Boeing employee for 32 years, Barnett raised questions about the safety and quality-control practices of Boeing after being transferred to the company's South Carolina production plant in 2010. Barnett worked at that plant until his retirement in 2017.

He filed a complaint against the company with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in 2017 and was in the process of appealing the initial decision in that case, which found that Boeing had not retaliated against him after he spoke out about practices to his supervisors.

Barnett had been giving a deposition in that case at the time of his death.

His allegations about Boeing then made national headlines in 2019 when Barnett sat down for an in-depth interview with The New York Times.

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

Rodney Barnett released a statement to the Associated Press on behalf of the family on Tuesday about his brother's death.

"John was deeply concerned about the safety of the aircraft and flying public, and had identified some serious defects that he felt were not adequately addressed," said Rodney. "He said that Boeing had a culture of concealment and was putting profits over safety."

He went on to say: "He was suffering from PTSD and anxiety attacks as a result of being subjected to the hostile work environment at Boeing, which we believe led to his death."

Barnett's lawyers also released a statement about their client's death on Tuesday afternoon.

"John was a brave, honest man of the highest integrity. He cared dearly about his family, his friends, the Boeing company, his Boeing co-workers, and the pilots and people who flew on Boeing aircraft. We have rarely met someone with a more sincere and forthright character," the statement read. 

"In the course of his job as a quality manager at Boeing South Carolina, John learned of and exposed very serious safety problems with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and was retaliated against and subjected to a hostile work environment, which is the subject of his pending AIR-21 case," it continued. 

"John was in the midst of a deposition in his whistleblower retaliation case, which finally was nearing the end. He was in very good spirits and really looking forward to putting this phase of his life behind him and moving on. We didn’t see any indication he would take his own life. No one can believe it.

"We are all devastated. We need more information about what happened to John," the statement continued. The Charleston police need to investigate this fully and accurately and tell the public what they find out. No detail can be left unturned."

Officers were called to the hotel where Barnett was staying for a welfare check on Saturday morning, according to Sgt. Anthony Gibson of the Charleston Police Department. There, they found Barnett dead in his truck inside a parking garage, still holding a gun with his finger still on the trigger, according to Gibson.

Social media is rife with unfounded theories that Barnett's death was not at his own hands, but instead a direct result of his work as a whistleblower. Individuals on TikTok and Twitter have expressed skepticism of the official account of events and instead have called his death "suspicious."

Boeing responded to news of Barnett's death in a brief statement, saying: “We are saddened by Mr. Barnett’s passing, and our thoughts are with his family and friends."

The company is dealing with another in-air incident this week after 50 people were injured on Monday while flying on a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

LATAM Airlines, the operator of the flight, said in a statement: 'LATAM Airlines Group reports that flight LA800, operating the Sydney - Auckland route today, had a technical event during the flight which caused a strong movement. The plane landed at Auckland Airport as scheduled."

Boeing said it is standing by as an investigation is underway into the incident.

This follows an incident on Jan. 9 when a Boeing 737 Max 9 being operated by Alaska Airlines lost a door mid-flight. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently completed a six-week audit of the company in the wake of that issue.

"To hold Boeing accountable for its production quality issues, the FAA has halted production expansion of the Boeing 737 MAX, is exploring the use of a third party to conduct independent reviews of quality systems, and will continue its increased onsite presence at Boeing’s facility in Renton, Washington, and Spirit AeroSystems’ facility in Wichita, Kansas," the FAA announced last week.

The agency also said it "will thoroughly review all of Boeing’s corrective actions to determine if they fully address the FAA’s findings."

Boeing has promised full transparency moving forward with the FAA.

The 737 Max had previously been grounded in 2019 following two crashes that were later determined to be a result of insufficient pilot training on the use of Boeing-designed software. Those two crashes ​-- Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302—claimed the lives of 346 people.

In the wake of the investigation into the Ethiopian Air Crash, Boeing said in a statement: "Safety is a core value for everyone at Boeing and the safety of our airplanes, our customers' passengers and crews is always our top priority. Boeing's technical experts continue to assist in this investigation and company-wide teams are working to address lessons from the Lion Air Flight 610 accident in October."

Then, following the completion of an investigation into the Lion Air crash, Boeing said: "We are addressing the KNKT's safety recommendations, and taking actions to enhance the safety of the 737 MAX to prevent the flight control conditions that occurred in this accident from ever happening again. Safety is an enduring value for everyone at Boeing and the safety of the flying public, our customers, and the crews aboard our airplanes is always our top priority. "


Boeing did not respond to Inside Edition Digital's request for additional comment.

If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or dial 988. Those seeking mental health support can also do so through Crisis Text Line by texting SHARE or APOYO to 741741 for free, 24/7 confidential support.

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