Relatives of Boeing whistleblower John Barnett break silence after his passing

John Barnett’s mother holds Boeing accountable for the mistreatment that led to her son’s despair.

Vicky Stokes expressed her profound grief over the loss of her son, attributing the tragic outcome to the prolonged duration of the situation. She firmly believes that if the circumstances had not dragged on, her son would still be alive and her other children would have their beloved brother by their side. When questioned about Boeing’s responsibility in her son’s untimely demise, she acknowledged that she does hold them partially accountable.

Barnett, 62, was found dead in his car on March 9 in the parking lot of his hotel in Charleston, South Carolina. He had been in the city to provide testimony in his whistleblower case against the troubled aerospace company.

Authorities are currently conducting an investigation into his demise, which the coroner has deemed an apparent suicide. The unfortunate incident occurred just before he was scheduled to recommence his deposition testimony against Boeing. He had previously accused the company of continuously neglecting safety concerns.

Stokes and her son Rodney Barnett have chosen not to provide any comments regarding their beliefs on whether John Barnett died by suicide, pending the conclusion of the investigation by the Charleston police department. In their first television interview with CBS News, they expressed their desire to uphold John Barnett’s legacy of advocating for the safety of the flying public.

“He believed that he was doing what was right. It was frustrating for him that no one would pay attention to the situation,” shared Rodney Barnett, his brother, in an interview with CBS News.

John Barnett, a former quality manager, dedicated 32 years of his career to Boeing. During the last seven years of his tenure, he played a crucial role in ensuring the production of the 787 Dreamliner at the South Carolina factory. However, John’s journey took an unexpected turn when he decided to blow the whistle on the company. In 2017, he made the difficult decision to resign from Boeing, citing job-related stress as the primary reason for his departure.

During his time at the company, he grew increasingly worried about the company’s operations. Prior to his resignation, he took the step of filing an administrative complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). However, OSHA found no reasonable cause to believe that Boeing had violated any whistleblower laws. Undeterred, he decided to pursue a lawsuit in 2021, where he outlined a range of safety concerns. These included incidents of stray titanium shavings falling into electrical wiring, defective oxygen tanks, and management encouraging him to take shortcuts.

Rodney Barnett shared that his brother informed him about the company’s response to his concerns. Instead of addressing them, the company chose to retaliate against him, making him feel embarrassed during meetings and singling him out. Rodney emphasized that his brother was resilient and never backed down.

John Barnett, in the Netflix documentary “Downfall: The Case Against Boeing” (2022), alleges that his managers retaliated against him after he voiced his concerns.

In the documentary, the individual expressed frustration with Boeing’s lack of willingness to listen to their employees. According to him, whenever he would raise concerns or point out issues, he was met with hostility and his message was disregarded.

According to his attorneys Brian Knowles and Rob Turkewitz, John Barnett operated on a different level, yet expressed similar concerns.

According to Turkewitz, who expressed his views to CBS News, the individual in question had no intentions of causing harm to Boeing. Instead, he had the company’s best interests at heart. Recognizing the impending crisis, he wanted to prevent any negative consequences that could potentially impact Boeing. Turkewitz believes that the laws protecting aerospace whistleblowers should be reinforced to ensure that individuals like him can effectively safeguard the companies they work for.

Turkewitz urged Congress to revamp a whistleblower law to facilitate quicker resolution of whistleblower complaints filed by Boeing employees. He emphasized the emotional toll that John Barnett endured while battling his case for years. Prior to his death, Barnett was subjected to a deposition by Boeing’s lawyers, a grueling process that forced him to relive painful memories.

According to Turkewitz, the weight of the situation was taking a toll on him. It seemed like everything was coming back to him.

According to CBS News, John Barnett’s family is determined to proceed with his whistleblower case, which is set to go to trial in September. The family believes that pursuing the case is essential for the sake of justice and accountability.

Amid the ongoing image and safety crisis, Boeing’s CEO, Dave Calhoun, has announced his decision to step down at the end of 2024.

This story has been updated to include more information and additional quotes.

If you or someone you know is experiencing emotional distress or going through a suicidal crisis, there is a helpline available. You can contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988. Additionally, you have the option to chat with the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline through their online platform.

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