SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — A sailor who was driving a military vehicle during an exercise in Australia when he collided with and killed a bicyclist pleaded guilty to negligent homicide during a court-martial last week in Washington state, according to Navy officials and media reports.

With the victim’s family looking on, Petty Officer 3rd Class James Eric Linabury entered his plea May 31 at Naval Base Kitsap in Bremerton, Wash., Navy officials said.

Linabury, a structural aviation mechanic, was on duty July 24, 2011, when his vehicle collided with 60-year-old Narelle Dobinson at a three-way intersection near Royal Australian Air Force Base Amberley. Dobinson died a week later at a Queensland hospital.

Linabury, attached to VP-40, a P-3 aircraft squadron out of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash., was in Australia to participate in Talisman Sabre, a biennial military and humanitarian exercise. Media reports out of Australia said he was on his way to pick up a cup of coffee when the accident occurred.

For his plea, Linabury received a 28-day jail sentence, according to a Commander Naval Air Forces news release.

He “publicly apologized to the victim’s family and expressed his deep regret and condolences to her loved ones,” the release said.

Linabury remains on active duty, command spokesman Lt. Aaron Kakiel wrote in an email to Stars and Stripes.

As a result of their mother’s death, Dobinson’s sons started the 24/7 Cycling Safety Fund, the release said, and are working to develop a safe-cycling center in Amberley in her memory. The Queensland Times reported that Linabury, a married father of two, had donated to the fund.

“There’s no happiness or anything like that,” Troy Dobinson told the Queensland Times from Washington. “But he’s been found guilty of killing mum and our priority was all about ownership of what happened … The guy is genuinely sorry for what he’s done and he’s got to live with it every day of his life as well.”

The case made headlines in Australia last year as it tested the Status of Forces agreement between the two nations. Linabury was originally charged in Australian courts with dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death, but jurisdiction was transferred to the U.S. military.

“There was extensive coordination between the U.S., Australian Government, and the victim’s family throughout the entire process,” Kakiel said in his email. “The sentencing marks the end of a process that was conducted with due process and respected the rights of the accused and victim’s family.”

A spokeswoman from the Australian Defence Department declined to comment by press time, but U.S. Embassy Canberra spokeswoman Alessia Mussomeli said U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich reached out to the Dobinson family to express condolences.

Kakiel said that the U.S. and Australia have a strong partnership and declined to comment on any impact the case might have on relations.

author picture
Matthew M. Burke has been reporting from Grafenwoehr, Germany, for Stars and Stripes since 2024. The Massachusetts native and UMass Amherst alumnus previously covered Okinawa, Sasebo Naval Base and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, for the news organization. His work has also appeared in the Boston Globe, Cape Cod Times and other publications.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now