‘I had to pick my dead baby up from the side of the road… I am living a nightmare’

A grief-stricken mother has recalled the horrific moment she found her baby son after he was killed by a drink-driver in a 141mph crash.

Eight-month-old Zackary Blades was thrown from his mum’s car following the horror smash on the A1 (M) between Chester-le-Street and Durham. Zackary’s aunt, Karlene Warner, was flung from the backseat into the front airbags and both she and her nephew were killed instantly.

Darryl Anderson, 38, was almost three times over the legal drink-limit and was using his phone moments before smashing into the Peugeot that Shalorna Warner, Zackary’s mum, was driving. Shalorna suffered minor injuries in the crash, which happened at about 3.15am on May 31, Teesside Live reports[1].

Anderson had been drinking on a flight back from a holiday before getting behind the wheel of his Audi Q5. He was jailed for more than 17 years at Durham Crown Court this week[3] after admitting two counts of causing death by dangerous driving.

During the sentencing hearing, Shalorna bravely stood in court to recount the moment a lorry driver found her baby on the opposite side of the carriageway.

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.

Shalorna Warner, Zackary's mum, speaks outside court
Shalorna Warner, Zackary’s mum, speaks outside court

“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.”

She described her grief as “living 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 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.”

Darryl Anderson has been jailed
Darryl Anderson has been jailed

Addressing the judge directly, 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.”

‘No one should have to go through what we’ve gone through’

When he was breathalysed, Anderson had 95mg of alcohol, with the legal limit being just 35. Examinations of his mobile phone showed that Anderson, of Clarell Walk, Rotherham, South Yorkshire, had been making calls and sending texts throughout his journey from Newcastle Airport.

Initially, he denied the offences and claimed he had picked up a hitchhiker outside of the airport who had been driving instead of him. He claimed he had fallen asleep during the journey and only woke up for the crash.

His story was disproved by investigators and he pleaded guilty to both counts. He has also been 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.”

Karlene Warner
Karlene Warner

“Please join us now in our justice for Zachary and Karlene and we will not stop,” the mum added. “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, 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.”


  1. ^ Teesside Live reports (www.gazettelive.co.uk)
  2. ^ New map shows blueprint for Metrolink expansion across Greater Manchester (www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk)
  3. ^ He was jailed for more than 17 years at Durham Crown Court this week (www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk)