'I will feel the ripples of this pain for the rest of my life' - Mum describes heartbreaking aftermath of fatal A1 crash

A heartbroken mother has described the horrifying moment her baby was found on the A1(M) following a fatal high-speed crash after being thrown from the vehicle due to the extreme force of the collision.

Eight-month-old Zackary Blades and his auntie, Karlene Warner, died at the scene of a collision after the Peugeot they were travelling in was struck by an Audi Q5 on the major route between Chester-le-Street and Durham on May 31, 2024. Zackary’s mum, Shalorna Warner was driving the Peugeot and sustained minor injuries before being taken to hospital for treatment.

On Tuesday, the drink-driver of the Audi, Darryl Anderson - who was more than double the legal limit and speeding at 141mph - was jailed for over 17 years at Durham Crown Court. He had pleaded guilty to two counts of causing death by dangerous driving. The court heard he had been using his phone in the lead up to the collision.

During the sentencing, the court heard a heart-breaking statement from Shalorna, who described the immediate moments after the crash, as she searched for Zackery, who had been flung from the car. She bravely stood up in court and recalled the moment her baby was found by a lorry driver on the opposite side of the carriageway after his chair was flung from the car.

She said: “I heard a painful scream from the lorry driver crying, 'Oh no, he’s here – your baby’s here.' I jumped over to find my baby lying on the edge of the grass of the motorway. I knew instantly. I had to pick my dead baby up from the side of the road. I hugged him so tight, a hug I will never forget.

“No words will surmount the irreparable hole that has been 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.

“My baby’s future, my future, our life together, has been stolen from me. I won’t ever see him look up and smile at me again. I won’t have that luxury. Instead, every second of every day I relive that night over and over again in my head, thinking what did my innocent little boy do to deserve this?

“And for my sister, Karlene, I just have no words. I am so sorry this happened to you. It’s hard to process something that doesn’t seem real – it just feels like I am living a nightmare. I will feel the ripples of this pain for the rest of my life. I don’t know if I will be able to get through this – I am scarred, I am traumatised, I am petrified to live my life."

She added: "The impact of these events will amplify the hard times and taint any good moment I may possibly have, because within my heart lives Zackary and Karlene, and I will never live a normal life again without them." Addressing the judge, she said: “Your Honour, I stand before you today 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 that caused this infinite agony. I hope the pain of this weighs them down for all eternity.

“Nothing will bring my son and my sister back to me. The only way forward for myself is if the defendant faces the same sentence I am facing – life. The irony of it all is that I will never see my loved ones again, but he will.”

When breathalysed at the roadside, Anderson blew 95microgrammes – the legal limit for driving with alcohol is 35. Forensic examinations of his mobile phone also found that the 38-year-old had been repeatedly making calls and sending texts throughout his journey from Newcastle Airport right up until the time of the collision.

He initially denied the offences, telling officers that he had picked up a hitchhiker outside the airport and had allowed him to drive his car. He claimed to have fallen asleep during the journey and only woke up at the point of the collision.

However, his story was disproved by investigators, and he pleaded guilty to both counts. As well as being jailed, he was also banned from driving for 21-and-a-half years.

Speaking after the sentencing, Detective Constable Natalie Horner, of Durham Constabulary’s Collision Investigation Unit, said: “As roads policing officers, we routinely ask people not to drive above 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 while intoxicated.

"Darryl Anderson was doing all three of those things when he collided with Shalorna Warner’s car, killing both passengers, Karlene and baby Zackary. For his actions, Anderson has been sentenced to more than 17 years in prison, but it is his victims and their family who have been handed life sentences.

“It is them who will spend the rest of their lives grieving 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 pass on our sincere gratitude to those who have been affected by this tragic incident. To the witnesses who came upon this scene in the middle of the night, and showed incredible bravery in how they acted, but who should never have had to witness or intervene in such things in the first place.

“To our police officers and emergency services colleagues who responded to this incident, both in the immediate aftermath and throughout the investigation, and who will carry with them the effects of this crash for the rest of their lives. And to Shalorna and her family, who have shown truly unbelievable strength and humility throughout this ordeal, under the most horrific circumstances, and who must now attempt to rebuild their lives in the wake of their loss.

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