Contractor pleads guilty to fatally striking Air Force captain with forklift on military base in UAE

Ari Taylor was on his cellphone and never saw Air Force Capt. Kelliann Leli as she was walking on the military base, authorities said

An American civilian contractor who fatally struck an Air Force doctor with a forklift as she was walking on an airbase in the Middle East has pleaded guilty, authorities said Tuesday. 

Ari Taylor, 32, of Roxboro, North Carolina, was operating the forklift on Nov. 27, 2020 to deliver pallets of water on the Al Dhafra Airbase in the United Arab Emirates when he hit Capt. Kelliann Leli. 

He pled guilty to one count of involuntary manslaughter.

US AID WORKER SHOT AND KILLED IN BAGHDAD, IRAQ

A memorial service for Air Force Capt. Kelliann Leli was held after she was fatally struck by a forklift operator on a military base in the Middle East.

A memorial service for Air Force Capt. Kelliann Leli was held after she was fatally struck by a forklift operator on a military base in the Middle East. (Hun Chustine Minoda of the 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs)

He was driving the machine through a space shared by vehicles and pedestrians between a medical clinic and barracks when the incident occurred. 

At the time, Taylor was on his cell phone and never saw Leli, the Justice Department said. A crash reconstruction expert estimated he had nearly 9 seconds to prevent striking her. Taylor told authorities he didn't see Leli.

The case was investigated by the Air Force and FBI. 

Leli was supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and was assigned to the 60th Healthcare Operations Squadron at Travis Air Force Base in California. 

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Around 3,500 U.S. military members are stationed in the UAE, according to the Congressional Research Service. 

Taylor is scheduled to be sentenced on April 25, 2023.