Cape Town - He heard the roar of a motor, a skid and suddenly a car was barrelling through the storefront of the luxury car dealership.
Ryan Florence didn’t know it then but a homeless man had been crushed to death under the vehicle’s tyres.
It was after midnight and Florence, who is also homeless, was trying to get some sleep under the shelter of the Engen Petrol Station on Roeland Street in the CBD.
He had arrived too late to snatch up prime sleeping space outside Viglietti Motors across the road.
In the parking lot opposite the Shack, a bar on the intersecting De Villiers Street, informal car guard Siphe Fefe was watching as two “young guys” stumbled out early on Tuesday morning.
“They were very drunk, shouting and running,” he said.
Minutes later, they jumped into their car, a white Mazda 323, and accelerated towards the foreshore.
He said it was 2am when he heard the sound of their engine fade into the night. An hour or two later, he saw the same car speeding towards him.
“The driver was leaning out of the window, pulling faces and teasing us,” said Fefe.
“He wasn’t looking where he was going; he only pulled his head back inside when he reached the intersection.”
It was too late for the driver to brake. From Fefe’s view the car didn’t slow down before it smashed through the glass storefront of Viglietti Motors, where five homeless people were sleeping, wrapped tightly in their blankets.
Florence watched from the petrol station, as the storefront imploded, glass flying in all directions.
He had a “perfect view” of what happened when the car came to a stop inside.
“Then, after a little while, I saw the driver and his friend get out,” said Florence, sitting in a nearby park.
“The driver’s face was bleeding all over and his friend had a piece of glass sticking out right there,” he said pointing to the front of his head.
It was only when police arrived that he saw someone had been killed. The other four people sleeping outside were unscathed.
“They were very lucky… I was lucky that I didn’t sleep there,” Florence said.
Police spokesman Captain FC van Wyk confirmed a man had been found dead inside the dealership. His body had been found underneath the front of the Mazda.
“Paramedics declared the man, in his 40s, deceased on the scene.”
The 22-year-old driver was taken to a nearby hospital for blood alcohol tests and was later detained.
Van Wyk said a case of culpable homicide had been opened.
The storefront is a popular shelter for the city’s homeless. Those who spoke to the Cape Argus said it protected them from the rain and offered a little warmth in winter.
However, none could identify the man who had been killed, saying he was probably one of the “older ones”.
On Tuesday at 9am, the dealership, which sells Maseratis and Ferraris, had been cordoned off by police.
Inside and outside, shattered glass lay stacked or swept up near where it had fallen.
A reception desk at the back of the store had also been damaged by the car.