‘I heard a pained scream from the truck driver shouting, ‘Oh no, he’s here, your baby is here’… I knew immediately’

A grieving mother recalls the horrific moment she found her baby son after he was killed in a 141mph crash involving a drunk driver.

Eight-month-old Zackary Blades was thrown from his mother’s car after the horrific crash on the A1(M) between Chester-le-Street and Durham. Zackary’s aunt, Karlene Warner, was thrown from the back seat into the airbags and both she and her nephew died instantly.

Darryl Anderson, 38, was almost three times over the legal alcohol limit and was using his phone just before he crashed into the Peugeot driven by Shalorna Warner, Zackary’s mother. Shalorna suffered minor injuries in the crash, which happened at around 3.15am on May 31, Teesside Live reports.

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Anderson had been drinking on a flight back from holiday before getting behind the wheel of his Audi Q5. He was jailed for more than 17 years at Durham Crown Court this week after admitting two counts of causing death by dangerous driving.

During the sentencing hearing, Shalorna bravely stood in court to recount the moment a truck driver found her baby on the other side of the road.

She said: “I heard a scream of agony from the truck driver shouting, ‘Oh no, he’s here, your baby’s here.’ I jumped over the edge of the grass of the motorway and saw my baby lying there. I knew straight away.

“I had to pick up my dead baby from the side of the road. I hugged him so tight, a hug I will never forget.

Shalorna Warner, Zackary's mother, speaks outside court

Shalorna Warner, Zackary’s mother, speaks outside court -Source:Reach PLC

“No words can fill the irreparable hole left in my heart and in my life. Zackary was my rainbow baby, he was the light at the end of a tunnel of a very dark time for me and brought joy, happiness and laughter into my life.”

She described her grief as “living in a nightmare” and herself as “a broken shell of a woman and a childless mother.”

She said, “My baby’s future, my future, our life together, has been stolen from me. I will never see him look up and smile at me again. I won’t have that luxury. Instead, I will relive every second of every day of that night over and over in my head, thinking, what did my innocent little boy do to deserve this?”

“And to my sister, Karlene, I just have no words. I’m so sorry this happened to you. It’s hard to process something that doesn’t seem real, it just feels like I’m living a nightmare. I’m going to feel the ripples of this pain for the rest of my life. I don’t know if I can get through this. I’m scarred, I’m traumatized, I’m terrified to live my life.”

“The impact of these events will magnify the difficult times and spoil any good moments I may have had, because Zackary and Karlene live in my heart and I will never be able to live a normal life without them.”

Darryl Anderson has been jailedDarryl Anderson has been jailed

Darryl Anderson has been jailed – Credit: No credit

She addressed the judge directly and said, “Your Honor, I stand before you today as a broken shell of a woman and a childless mother. But this guilt is not mine to bear, this guilt is owed to the person who caused this unending torment. I hope the pain of this will weigh them down forever.

“Nothing will bring my son and sister back to me. The only way for me to move forward is for the defendant to receive the same sentence I received, life in prison. The irony of all this is that I will never see my loved ones again, but he will.”

‘No one should have to go through what we went through’

A breath test found Anderson had consumed 95mg of alcohol, while the legal limit was just 35. Examination of his mobile phone revealed Anderson, of Clarell Walk, Rotherham, South Yorkshire, had been making calls and sending text messages continuously during his journey from Newcastle Airport.

He initially denied wrongdoing, claiming he had picked up a hitchhiker outside the airport who had driven in his place. He claimed he had fallen asleep during the journey and only woke up before the crash.

His story was debunked by investigators and he pleaded guilty to both charges. He was also banned from driving for 21.5 years.

Shalorna said outside court after the sentencing: “The only thing we hoped for was a lifetime driving ban, but he didn’t get that. But now we’re going to fight. He should never get in a car and drive again. No one should have to go through what we went through.”

Karlene WarnerKarlene Warner

Karlene Warner -Source:Durham Police

“Join us now in our justice for Zachary and Karlene and we will not stop,” the mother added. “I will fight for them every day that I am on this earth.”

Detective Constable Natalie Horner, of Durham Police’s Collision Investigation Unit, said: “As police officers on the road, we routinely ask people not to drive faster than the speed limit. We routinely ask people not to use their mobile phones while driving. And we routinely ask people not to get behind the wheel if they are drunk.

“Darryl Anderson did all three of those things when he collided with Shalorna Warner’s car, killing both passengers, Karlene and baby Zackary. For his actions, Anderson was sentenced to more than 17 years in prison, but it was his victims and their families who received life sentences.

“They are the ones who will mourn the rest of their lives for the loss of their son, their grandchild, their wife, their sister and their mother. And for what?”

She added: “I would like to take this moment to express our sincere thanks to those affected by this tragic incident. To the witnesses who stumbled upon this crime scene in the middle of the night and showed incredible courage in their actions, but who should never have witnessed or intervened in such matters in the first place.

“To our police officers and emergency services colleagues who responded to this incident, both immediately after the incident and during the investigation, and who will carry the consequences of this crash with them for the rest of their lives. And to Shalorna and her family, who have shown truly incredible strength and humility through this ordeal, in the most horrific of circumstances, and who must now try to rebuild their lives after their loss.

“Darryl Anderson’s name should now become a footnote in this tragic story. The names we should remember, and the people we should keep in our thoughts, are Karlene and Zackary, and their remarkable family.”

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