Mother of Dead Boeing Whistleblower Blames Company for Son’s Death: ‘Nobody Would Listen’

John Barnett was found dead in his car in the parking lot of the Charleston, South Carolina, hotel where he was staying while giving testimony in a whistleblower case against aircraft manufacturer Boeing.

Authorities are still investigating the cause of death, but Barnett’s mother, Vicky Stokes, said she already holds the company responsible for it.

“If this hadn’t gone on so long, I’d still have my son, and my sons would have their brother and we wouldn’t be sitting here,” she told CBS News when asked if she blamed Boeing. “So in that respect, I do,” she said.

Barnett, who was 62 when he died, had worked at Boeing for 32 years, according to the outlet, including seven as a “quality manager,” before he resigned in 2017 because of the stress of his job.

“Over that time, he developed concerns about the way the company was operating. Before resigning, he filed an administrative complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration,” CBS reported. “The agency said it had no reasonable cause to believe Boeing violated whistleblower laws.


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“He then filed a lawsuit in 2021, alleging a litany of safety concerns. Among them: stray titanium shavings falling into electrical wiring, defective oxygen tanks and managers urging him to cut corners,” the outlet added.

Barnett scheduled to provide additional testimony about what Barnett had said were repeatedly ignored safety issues at the company.

“He thought of himself as trying to do the right thing,” his brother, Rodney Barnett, told CBS. “And that’s what bothered him, that nobody would listen as to what was going on there.”

“He wasn’t trying to hurt Boeing,” agreed Rob Turkewitz, one of the attorneys who represented John Barnett. “He was trying to save Boeing.

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“He saw this coming and he said, ‘You know, this is all going to come down on Boeing,’” Turkewitz told CBS.

“That was wearing on him,” the attorney added. “I think it all came back to him.”

John Barnett said that he’d tried to bring issues to the attention of company management, but would up ignored — or, worse, retaliated against.

“Boeing quit listening to their employees. So every time I’d raise my hand and say, ‘hey we got a problem here’, they would attack the messenger and… and ignore the message,” he said in the Netflix documentary “Downfall: The Case Against Boeing.”

Another attorney representing him, Brian Knowles, said that the case would continue in an effort to find “justice and accountability,” CBS reported.


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The coroner called John Barnett’s death an “apparent suicide,” but his brother and mother were waiting for the results of the ongoing investigation by the Charleston authorities before weighing in on whether they think he actually killed himself, according to CBS.

Dave Calhoun has announced he will be stepping down as Boeing’s CEO at the end of this year, according to multiple outlets.

“We are saddened by Mr. Barnett’s passing, and our thoughts are with his family and friends,” Boeing told CBS in a statement.

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George Upper is the former Editor-in-Chief of The Western Journal and was a weekly co-host of “WJ Live,” powered by The Western Journal. He is currently a contributing editor in the areas of faith, politics and culture. A former U.S. Army special operator, teacher and consultant, he is a lifetime member of the NRA and an active volunteer leader in his church. Born in Foxborough, Massachusetts, he has lived most of his life in central North Carolina.

George Upper, is the former editor-in-chief of The Western Journal and is now a contributing editor in the areas of faith, politics and culture. He currently serves as the connections pastor at Awestruck Church in Greensboro, North Carolina. He is a former U.S. Army special operator, teacher, manager and consultant. Born in Massachusetts, he graduated from Foxborough High School before joining the Army and spending most of the next three years at Fort Bragg. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English as well as a Master’s in Business Administration, all from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He and his wife life only a short drive from his three children, their spouses and his grandchildren. He is a lifetime member of the NRA and in his spare time he shoots, reads a lot of Lawrence Block and John D. MacDonald, and watches Bruce Campbell movies. He is a fan of individual freedom, Tommy Bahama, fine-point G-2 pens and the Oxford comma.


Foxborough, Massachusetts




Beta Gamma Sigma


B.A., English, UNCG; M.A., English, UNCG; MBA, UNCG


North Carolina

Languages Spoken


Topics of Expertise

Faith, Business, Leadership and Management, Military, Politics

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