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Fatal crash 'could have happened to anyone'; defence seeks weekend sentence

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The driver of the car that struck and killed Reginald Blackbird on Christmas Eve 2010 should not be punished for the man's death, his lawyer said, but only for leaving the scene.

Defence counsel Darren Sawchuk told court today there was no evidence that Christopher Peebles was driving illegally or improperly when his car struck Blackbird in the late afternoon of Dec. 24, 2010.

"The accident could have happened to anyone," Sawchuk said, adding that evidence showed Peebles was driving under the posted speed limit and that Peebles had braked to avoid hitting Blackbird, who had walked out onto the roadway.

Peebles, 46, pleaded guilty in December to a charge of failure to remain at the scene of an accident causing death. The more serious charge of criminal negligence causing death was dismissed earlier by the judge presiding over the preliminary hearing more than a year ago.

Crown counsel Victor Bellay said Peebles’ actions that day were "morally abhorrent" and suggested he should be sentenced to a 12-month jail sentence.

Sawchuk said Peebles spent 11 days in custody after arrested by police on Christmas Day and the more appropriate sentence is 90 days to be served on consecutive weekends.

Justice Lori Spivak reserved her decision to later in the year. Peebles remains free on bail.

Blackbird’s family members were in court and repeatedly broke down and sobbed as details of the collision were read to the court. Family members declined to comment following the hearing.

Left scene of crash, arrested following day

Bellay said Peebles’ brother had testified that he had three beers shortly after noon on that day. Peebles was driving on Fife Street in The Maples just before 6 p.m. Blackbird had just parked his car on Fife and was carrying a bag of groceries to his daughter’s house for a Christmas Eve dinner when he was struck by Peebles. Blackbird was thrown up into the air, onto the car’s hood and windshield and then thrown to the ground.

Peebles stopped, but then backed up and drove off on a route through the neighbourhood and back onto Fife, where he checked the accident scene and then continued to drive on. He abandoned his heavily damaged car a few blocks away and was arrested by police at his sister’s house on Christmas Day.

Bellay said Peebles had an extensive criminal record from 1984 to 2002 of mostly property crimes, but no convictions after that.

Bellay said the response of a responsible person would be to stop and check on the condition of the victim and see if there is anything they can do to help.

Sawchuk said Peebles was in shock and "made the wrong choice," to drive off. However, he said, Peebles had intended to turn himself him but he was arrested before that happened.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

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