'I can't find my baby' - Mum relives horror aftermath of crash that killed son and sister

The family spoke exclusively to Katie Cole after dangerous driver Darryl Anderson was jailed for 17 years for killing Karlene and Zackary.

Warning: This report and article includes distressing details.

A mother has recalled the "living nightmare" of being unable to find her eight-month-old baby after a drunk driver crashed into her on the A1 at 141mph.

Shalorna Warner was travelling with her sister Karlene Warner and her baby son Zackary Blades in her Peugeot 308 when the collision happened near Chester-le-Street at 3.15am on 31 May.

The 26-year-old was the sole survivor of the collision, caused by Darryl Anderson, who had been drinking, speeding and had been on his phone behind the wheel of his Audi Q5.

Speaking exclusively to ITV Tyne Tees, the grieving 26-year-old described the panic she felt in the seconds after the impact as she frantically searched for her son.

"Zack would have been behind her (Karlene) in the passenger seat and the car was completely crushed - it was just a mess," she said.

"The complete left side was just took straight off and he wasn't there. The full back seat of the car was gone."

Eight-month-old Zackary Blades and his aunt Karlene Warner, 30, were killed at the scene of a horror crash on the A1(M) in County Durham. Credit: Durham Police

'I can't find my baby'

Shalorna said she screamed Zack's name before clocking Anderson - whom she asked for help but who did not respond.

"Straight away I said 'I can't find my baby', and he did nothing," she continued.

She soon found the back seats and her car seat, but it was "crushed in on itself" - and empty.

Amid the frenzy, the panic-stricken mother called 999 and made efforts to flag other drivers down using her phone's torch, while "screaming help".

A lorry driver stopped to help on the opposite carriageway.

The devastating aftermath of the crash that killed two members of the same family in an instant. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

"I tried getting to him because I just wanted someone to help me and to be someone," she explained.

"And all of a sudden I hear him cry out. It's something that you'd never forget - that cry - that you knew instantly from the lorry driver - he shouted 'he's here'.

"I jumped over the wall and ran over and there was Zack, lying on the side of the road, on the grass, so close to the road....

"He was laying there, and still so beautiful. It was the first thing I thought, 'cause he could have been a lot worse."

Shalorna picked her baby up and a medically trained member of the public carried out CPR before paramedics took over. Despite their best efforts, they were unable to save Zack.

Zack had recently learned to crawl, to pull himself up and "say mama".

Shalorna and Zack's dad, Jack Blades, have been left "traumatised" by the crash which took their baby's life.

First-time-mum Shalorna said she felt like she was "living someone else's nightmare", adding: "I should never ever have witnessed what I witnessed - picking up my dead child by the side of the road."

Zack's family said: "I’m so sorry you never got to grow up. Mammy and daddy love you so much, you didn’t deserve any of this." Credit: Family photo

Before the crash

On the day of the crash - in the early hours of the morning - Shalorna had gone to pick up her sister Karlene from Newcastle Airport.

The 30-year-old had just landed her dream job as cabin crew and had to return early for it from a family holiday in Gran Canaria, leaving her partner and her little girl there.

A lengthy wait for mum-of-one Karlene to get through security bought Shalorna an extra hour with her son. She gave him a bottle of milk and held him sleeping on her chest.

Shalorna described putting him in her car seat and picking up Karlene - sharing in her sister's excitement from the family holiday and her career to come.

Also leaving the airport that morning was Anderson.

The 38-year-old just got off a flight after being on holiday in Turkey and was heading home on his own to Rotherham.

Also travelling on the A1, and at 141mph, Anderson took photos of his speedometer from behind the wheel of his Audi Q5.

Seconds later and the cars collided.

Shalorna told ITV Tyne Tees: "I remember spinning and the car lights went off.

"I looked straight at Karlene and I shouted for her and then I waited in the silence for her to make a noise and she didn’t".

The wreckage of Darryl Anderson's car on the A1(M). Credit: Durham Police

The aftermath

Emergency services raced to the scene and both Zackary and Karlene were pronounced dead at the scene.

Anderson was cornered by officers before being breathalysed. That is when his elaborate recollection of events began.

He told police he had simply "driven into the back of their car".

"We all make mistakes. I am not a bad person", Anderson claimed to police.

Then came the story of a mystery driver, a supposed hitchhiker that Andseron allowed to drive his vehicle.“I says, but can you drive? He says yeah. I says because I am knackered you know from the flight. So I jumped in the passenger and he’s in the driver's seat, and we’ve set off and I’ve just fell asleep and we woke up and I was crashing.”

Police very quickly determined this was a lie.

Darryl Anderson was almost three times the legal limit for drink driving when his dangerous driving killed two people. Credit: Durham Police

When they presented him with more evidence - Anderson admitted his guilt.

An investigating police officer at Durham Constabulary told ITV Tyne Tees that 100 officers required trauma counselling because of the incident.

Darryl Anderson was jailed for 17 years and three months at Durham Crown Court. Credit: Durham Police

"There’s no difference from using a gun"

The devastation of the scene and the harrowing memory of how events unfolded in the early hours of 31 May will weigh heavily on this family forever.

Shalorna said: "It's the haunting picture, knowing Karlene and Zack were in that car alive.

"There was no chance they were ever going to come out alive."

Alison Warner and her husband Nigel are Karlene's parents and Zackary's grandparents. They told ITV Tyne Tees the series of events were completely avoidable: "He had three choices that night. He decided to drink. He decided to put his foot down on the car. He decided to take a picture of that. He decided to kill people. And there’s no difference from using a gun.

"It was three bullets fired. That two killed two innocent lives. One went through our family's heart."

The family says it is comforting to know they are together and that Auntie Karlene will take the very best care of their "gorgeous boy". Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The family have spoken to ITV Tyne Tees in the hope this can never happen again.

"When you are a mother and a father, you do anything to protect your baby and when that is taken that feeling does not stop and that’s what is pushing me now to do it for him and Karlene", Nigel said.

"She was a diamond and when we look at the sky at night she’ll be the brightest one.Because Karlene was such a good mum I know she will be looking after him.

"I wish they were both here so they could be with their own families but I know she’s looking after him."

Karlene pictured as a child, with her sisters and father. Credit: Family photo

"The stuff of nightmares"

Anderson, of Clarell Walk, Thorpe Hesley, Rotherham, pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving at a hearing and on Tuesday 9 July, he was sentenced to 17 years and three months in prison.

Durham Crown Court heard he has 10 previous convictions including for drink driving.

Before passing sentence, Judge Kidd offered her sympathies to the families admitting no sentence could reflect the "incalculable" loss they had suffered.

"Photographs of the scene are the stuff of nightmares but however upsetting they are they pale into insignificance of what Shalorna saw at the scene.

"The reality is you played Russian roulette with the lives of every man, woman and child you passed on that journey."

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