Mum tells of horrific search for her baby boy flung from car in fatal motorway crash

Sharlona Warner, the mother of eight-month-old Zackary Blades speaks to the media alongside Detective Constable Natalie Horner outside Durham Crown Court
-Credit: (Image: PA)

A devastated mum has described the horrific moment she found the body of her baby on a motorway following a fatal high-speed crash. Eight-month-old Zackary Blades and his aunt, Karlene Warner, tragically died at the scene of the crash after the Peugeot they were in was hit by an Audi Q5 on the A1(M) between Chester-le-Street and Durham on May 31.

Zackary's mum, Shalorna Warner, who was driving the Peugeot, suffered minor injuries and was taken to hospital for treatment. On Tuesday, Darryl Anderson, the drink-driver of the Audi, who was more than double the legal limit and speeding at 141mph, was sentenced to over 17 years in prison at Durham Crown Court.

He had admitted to two counts of causing death by dangerous driving. The court was told he had been using his phone prior to the crash.

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During the sentencing, the court heard a heart-wrenching statement from Shalorna, who described the immediate aftermath of the crash as she searched for Zackery, who had been thrown from the car due to the extreme force of the impact. She courageously stood up in court and recalled the moment her baby was found by a lorry driver on the opposite side of the motorway after his chair was flung from the car, reports Teesside Live.

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.

"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."

Directly addressing the court, she expressed: "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."

At the scene, Anderson was found to have 95 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath - significantly over the legal driving limit of 35. Further investigation into his mobile phone revealed that the 38-year-old had been making calls and sending texts throughout his drive from Newcastle Airport until the time of the tragic incident.

Initially, Anderson denied the charges, claiming to officers that after picking up a hitchhiker outside the airport, he had allowed the stranger to drive and had fallen asleep, waking only at the moment of the crash.

However, his fabricated account was quickly unravelled by investigators, leading him to admit guilt to both charges. As well as being jailed, he was also banned from driving for 21-and-a-half years.

Speaking outside court following the sentencing, Shalorna said: "The one thing we hoped for was a lifetime driving ban which he didn't get. But now we're going to fight. He should never get in a car again and drive. No one should have to go through what we've gone through.

"Please join us now in our justice for Zachary and Karlene and we will not stop," she further appealed. "I will fight every single day that I am on this earth for them."

Detective Constable Natalie Horner of Durham Constabulary's Collision Investigation Unit also spoke following the sentencing, saying: "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?

"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."

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