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Boeing Whistleblower John Barnett Found Dead 'in the Midst of' Deposition: Lawyers

“We are saddened by Mr. Barnett’s passing, and our thoughts are with his family and friends," Boeing said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE

<p>Samuel Corum/Getty Images</p> The headquarters for The Boeing Company is seen in Arlington, Virginia

Samuel Corum/Getty Images

The headquarters for The Boeing Company is seen in Arlington, Virginia
  • Boeing whistleblower John Barnett was found dead in South Carolina while he was undergoing questioning in connection with a lawsuit against the company

  • Barnett, who spent about 30 years with Boeing, raised various safety concerns about the planes, both in public and in a complaint filed against the company

  • "John was in the midst of a deposition in his whistleblower retaliation case, which finally was nearing the end," his lawyers said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE

John Barnett, a former quality control manager for Boeing, has been found dead.

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The Charleston County Coroner's Office said the 62-year-old Louisiana man was found dead on Saturday from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to a statement obtained by PEOPLE. The Charleston City Police Department is investigating.

Barnett, who spent about three decades working for Boeing until his retirement in 2017, was in Charleston for legal proceedings in connection with a whistleblower lawsuit against the company, according to the BBC and Time.

"John was in the midst of a deposition in his whistleblower retaliation case, which finally was nearing the end," his lawyers, Robert Turkewitz and Brian Knowles, said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.

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

The BBC reported that he gave a formal deposition and was questioned by Boeing's lawyers last week. He was scheduled to undergo additional questioning on Saturday, per the outlet.

Related: United Passenger Films ‘Wing Coming Apart’ on Boeing Plane, Alerts Crew Leading to 'Emergency Landing'

"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," his lawyers said.

In a statement from Boeing obtained by PEOPLE on Tuesday, the company said, "We are saddened by Mr. Barnett’s passing, and our thoughts are with his family and friends."

Sergeant Anthony Gibson of the Charleston Police Department acknowledged the “global attention this case has garnered” and said it is authorities’ priority to ensure the investigation into Barnett’s death “is not influenced by speculation but is led by facts and evidence," according to ABC affiliate WCIV and CBS affiliate WCSC-TV.

"Given the sensitive nature of the investigation, we are unable to participate in media interviews at this time,” Gibson said in a statement on Tuesday. “This stance is not unique to this case but is a standard procedure we adhere to in order to preserve the integrity of active investigations."

The Charleston Police Department did not immediately respond when contacted by PEOPLE.

<p>Celal Gunes / Anadolu Agency/Getty</p> The headquarters for The Boeing Company is seen in Arlington, Virginia

Celal Gunes / Anadolu Agency/Getty

The headquarters for The Boeing Company is seen in Arlington, Virginia

In January 2017, Barnett filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration accusing Boeing of retaliating against him, according to The Washington Post. The agency later determined there was no retaliation, but Barnett appealed the decision.

In a 2019 interview with the BBC, Barnett claimed employees were under pressure to intentionally fit aircraft with substandard parts on the production line.

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Barnett also told the BBC about his concerns with the oxygen systems on Boeing’s 787 Dreamliners, alleging that one in four breathing masks would not work in the event of an emergency.

Related: Alaska Airlines Flight Arrives at Portland Airport with Open Cargo Door and Pets Inside

In a statement, Barnett's family said he experienced post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety, claiming that the “hostile work environment at Boeing” led to his death, reported NBC News.

“John told us that every day was a battle to get management to do the right thing,” the family statement read. “He was looking forward to having his day in court and hoped that it would force Boeing to change its culture.”

News of his death came as Boeing has come under renewed scrutiny after a number of public incidents.

In January, part of a Boeing aircraft blew out mid-flight on an Alaska Airlines trip, an incident which is currently under criminal investigation by the Department of Justice. In a previous statement to PEOPLE, Alaska Airlines confirmed the investigation is taking place but called it a “normal” part in the process.

Additionally, 50 people were injured on a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner when a sudden mid-air movement caused the plane to suddenly drop on Monday.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741741 or go to 988lifeline.org.

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Read the original article on People.