Man jailed after woman and baby die in horror crash

Zackary Blades, aged eight-months-old, and Karlene Warner, 30, died following a crash
-Credit: (Image: Durham Constabulary)

A drunk driver who killed a baby and his aunt when driving over 140mph has been jailed.

Darryl Anderson was three times over the legal limit when he drove his Audi Q5 on the A1 at 141mph and collided into a Peugeot 308. This resulted in the tragic loss of eight-month-old Zackary Blades and his aunt, 30-year-old Karlene Warner. The driver of the Peugeot, Zackary's mum Sharlona Warner, was left with minor injuries.

Anderson, aged 38, admitted to two counts of causing death by dangerous driving at a hearing at Durham Crown Court last week. The fatal incident occurred between Chester-le-Street and Durham, at around 3.15am, on Friday, May 31.

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Around 30 family members of the victims were in court for last week's hearing. Today, Judge Joanne Kidd handed Anderson, from Thorpe Hesley, South Yorkshire, a sentence of 17 years and three months imprisonment, reports the Mirror.

As the sentencing took place today, Karlene's husband demanded that Anderson look at him while he read his heartfelt victim impact statement, but Anderson looked straight at the floor. Karlene's dad and Zackary's grandad described Anderson as a "wild man driving a killing machine", he added: "No words can describe how we felt when we received that call from Shalorna. A horrifying, horrendous incident that will stay with her forever."

During sentencing the judge said Anderson landed at Newcastle Airport and had drunk a “significant” amount of alcohol during the flight, but collected his car and intended to drive it back to Yorkshire, a journey of around 200 miles. He began driving at 2.39am and the collision occured at 3.17am - he had drove around 20 miles and was driving in a “thoroughly dangerous and intoxicated manner” over the Felling Bypass.

He sent Whatsapp messages during the drive, and seconds before the fatal crash took a screenshot of his speedometer. “It is a chilling image. At the centre of the console is a warning sign, displaying a warning of impending obstacle. That obstacle was the Peugoet driven by Shalorna.

The judge said: “I do not know why you took that picture…whatever the situation your attention had been further distracted from your driving. Your accelerator pedal was fully depressed at time of impact. Driving at 141mph. The photos of the scene are the stuff of nightmares”.

“You played Russian roulette with every man, woman and child on that journey”.

She said it was “inevitable” he was going to crash into a vehicle. After the crash, Shalorna Warner and Zackary’s father, Jack Blades, paid tribute to their son.

They said: “I’m so sorry you never got to grow up. Our little Zack – mammy and daddy love you so much, you didn’t deserve any of this. You were such a happy, cheeky boy. I am so sorry this has happened – our hearts are truly broken. We will never forget you, you will always be in our hearts.”

The family also paid tribute to Ms Warner, saying: “How do we put into words to describe the amazing mother, partner, daughter, sister, granddaughter, auntie, niece, and friend Karlene was? You light up every room you walked into like the bright shining diamond that you were. You had so much to look forward to in life and that has been taken.”

Defence laywer Richard Dawson, for Anderson, said the case is “tragic”, with the crash having “catastrophic consequences”. He says Anderson has provided a letter to the court. He says Anderson has a young daughter, who is the “primary focus of his life” and knows he will be absent from her life for a long period of time.

“By his guilty pleas…he accepts he drove dangerously and caused the deaths of both Zackary and Karlene. No explanation can be provided by him how this terrible accident occurred. In all likelihood the combination of speed, intoxication and distraction of mobile phone” caused the accident. He says Anderson was “not concentrating” and that Anderson is “profoundly sorry” and wants to apologise. He says “ultimately common sense prevailed” and decided to plead guilty to try and bring “closure” to the family as soon as possible.

Anderson was also banned from driving for 21 and a half years.

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