Boeing Co

Boeing whistleblower dies following a brief illness, weeks after the suicide of another

Joshua Dean, 45, a former quality auditor at Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems, alleged that managers failed to act on manufacturing defects on the 737 Max

David Ryder/Bloomberg via Getty Images

An aviation worker — who went public with safety concerns and alleged retaliation by his employer — has died following a brief illness, weeks after another Boeing whistleblower’s death, attorneys who represented both men said Thursday.

Joshua Dean, 45, of Wichita, Kansas, died Tuesday after he received multiple diagnoses that included the flu, pneumonia and MRSA, prompting his family to seek an autopsy, attorney Robert Turkewitz said.

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"He was a healthy individual who ate well and exercised," Turkewitz told NBC News. "So it just seems odd that he went so fast."

Dean had been sick for two weeks and had been struggling to breathe, forcing him to be put on a ventilator.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Josh and his family," said a statement from Brian Knowles. another attorney representing Dean. "Josh’s passing is a loss to the aviation community and the flying public. He possessed tremendous courage to stand up for what he felt was true and right and raised quality and safety issues."

Turkewitz and Knowles had also represented John Barnett, a 62-year-old Louisiana man, who died March 9 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Charleston, South Carolina, officials said.

Barnett was in town for a deposition in his federal legal action against Boeing, with his case set to go before an administrative law judge later this year, his attorneys said.

Barnett, who spent more than three decades at Boeing, told aviation authorities in 2017 about what he said were potentially “catastrophic” safety failings with the 787 Dreamliner.

Dean was a former quality auditor at Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems and he alleged that managers failed to act on manufacturing defects on the 737 MAX planes.

Though he was not a plaintiff, he is mentioned in a 2023 shareholder lawsuit against Spirit.

The "mis-drilled holes" in the rear bulkhead of the MAX planes were reported by Dean, who submitted "formal written findings to his manager" but Spirit "concealed the defect," according to the lawsuit. Those holes could create cracks and threaten an aircraft's structural integrity.

"Now, I’m not saying they don’t want you to go out there and inspect a job. You know, they do," he told NPR this year. "But if you make too much trouble, you will get the Josh treatment. You will get what happened to me."

Dean was let go from the company April 26, 2023, in what he called an act of retaliation.

"I think they were sending out a message to anybody else," Dean said. "If you are too loud, we will silence you."

Spirit said in a statement that it is mourning Dean’s passing, but declined to comment on his accusations. The supplier previously told NPR that it strongly disagrees with the allegations in the suit and is fighting the case in court.

"Our thoughts are with Josh Dean’s family," Spirit spokesperson Joe Buccino said in the statement. "This sudden loss is stunning news here at Spirit and for his loved ones."

The stress of the past few years could have taken a toll on Dean, Turkewitz said.

"We were told that stress can cause the immune system to weaken and makes you more susceptible to pneumonia, the flu and MRSA," he said. "He'd been under a lot of stress for blowing the whistle and being terminated, he believed, as a result of blowing the whistle. He'd been trying to get the word out and no one would listen."

CNBC's Steve Kopack contributed.

This story first appeared on NBCNews.com. More from NBC News:

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