Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Family 'shattered in minutes'

Daughter recounts Christmas Eve tragedy

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Reginald Blackbird wanted to make sure his family had the perfect Christmas Eve feast.

He dropped off presents at his daughter's Fife Street home on Friday afternoon before he zipped out to the grocery store to pick up a cake. Every year on Christmas Eve, the family gathered for a turkey dinner and to exchange gifts at the stroke of midnight.

Minutes after Blackbird, 66, phoned his daughter from the store to make sure she had everything she needed for the holiday festivities, he was struck by an erratic driver while walking across Fife Street, steps away from where his children and grandchildren were waiting for him.

Tammy Harry, Blackbird's daughter, was peeling potatoes when she heard a commotion on the street. She ran outside to find her father lying on the road, his face covered with his jacket, clinging to life.

"I just kept telling him me and my brother were there and we loved him," Harry said, her voice cracking. "I just held his hand until the ambulance got there.

"It all shattered in minutes."

After the car struck Blackbird, the driver reversed his vehicle, drove around the critically injured man and fled the scene, according to police. Witnesses said a man chased the vehicle as it peeled away from the accident, jotting down a licence-plate number as the car travelled south on Fife.

Police arrested a man on Christmas Day near Manor House Court and Maberley Road.

Christopher Ronald Peebles, 44, has been charged with criminal negligence causing death and failure to remain at the scene of an accident causing death.

"I think it's difficult for people to comprehend the actions in this case, how someone could strike a pedestrian, reverse their vehicle and drive around them, leaving them gravely injured, as was the case," said Winnipeg police Const. Natalie Aitken.

Blackbird's family was holed up in his St. Boniface home on Boxing Day planning funeral arrangements. Harry said her father was originally from Keeseekoowenin First Nation, north of Brandon, where a service will be held for him. He will be buried in Little Black River next to his wife, who died two years ago.

She said her father was lonely following his wife's death, and visited his three granddaughters, aged nine, five and one, nearly every day in her Mynarski-area home. He was a devoted family man, she said, who loved square dancing and frequented the Indian and Métis Friendship Centre.

Hours after Blackbird's death, Harry said she and her brother, her sister and Blackbird's grandchildren gathered to unwrap gifts at midnight, just as he would have wanted. Blackbird didn't have much money, Harry said, but the emotional moment made everyone chuckle since it was the first time he actually bought his granddaughters clothes that fit.

"He was in such a good mood that day. He just wanted everything to be perfect for the dinner," Harry said.

"We explained to (the children) he's with their granny now. They just say, 'He's got wings like Granny now.' "

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 27, 2010 B1


Updated on Monday, December 27, 2010 at 3:33 PM CST: Corrects funeral details.

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