Ex-contractor pleads guilty in forklift death of Air Force doctor at UAE base
Stars and Stripes November 9, 2022
A North Carolina man has pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter for accidently driving a forklift over an Air Force doctor at a military base in the United Arab Emirates two years ago.
Ari Taylor, 32, was working as a contractor and delivering pallets of water at al-Dhafra Air Base when he struck and killed Capt. Kelliann Leli on Nov. 27, 2020, the Justice Department said in a statement Tuesday after the guilty plea.
The former contractor could have faced up to eight years in prison, but his plea agreement recommends a maximum prison sentence of one year.
The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina is scheduled to sentence Taylor in April.
Taylor was on his cellphone while driving the forklift in an area shared by vehicles and pedestrians, and he didn’t see Leli before striking her, according to court documents.
Witnesses heard the 30-year-old doctor scream as the left front tire of the forklift ran over her body, but Taylor continued to drive, court documents state.
When Taylor finally realized what had happened, he ran to summon help from the nearby medical clinic where Leli happened to work, but she was pronounced dead at the scene.
An investigation found that Taylor would have seen Leli walking from about 50 feet away if he had not been using his phone, and that he had almost nine seconds to avoid the fatal collision.
A resident of Parlin, N.J., Leli was a member of the 60th Healthcare Operations Squadron, based at California’s Travis Air Force Base. She was assigned to the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing at the time of her death.
The wing commander at the time, Brig. Gen. Larry Broadwell, called her “an exceptional medic, officer and teammate.”
Leli earned her commission from the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., in 2012 and her medical degree from Rutgers University in 2016.
She completed her family medicine residency at Travis, where she and her husband, Capt. Jimmy Leli, were based.