Driver in collision that killed Swedish volunteer became 'aggressive' when keys were taken away
An eyewitness who decided to take Darryl Futter's car keys away in Table View, for fear he might flee the scene after a fatal collision involving several international volunteers in 2016, testified on Friday that the move was met with aggression.
Antonio Gomes-Piroto, a school teacher who had been visiting friends near the collision scene on December 14 was called by the State to testify in the Cape Town Regional Court.
Futter is accused of killing 19-year-old Aksel Otterbeck on Arum Road, Table View.
He has pleaded not guilty to charges of culpable homicide, driving under the influence of alcohol (alternatively, exceeding the breath alcohol limit of 0.24mg/1 000ml), reckless and/or negligent driving and two counts of assault.
Gomes-Piroto said that he had been hanging out with a group of people in a friend's garage in Dunbar Street, which intersects with Arum Road, when they were shocked by a very "distinctive, loud bang, like plastic crumpling" around dusk.
They opened the garage door and rushed to the intersection.
Gomes-Piroto saw a driver sitting alone in a silver Polo to his right.
"He was just sitting there, with what seemed to be his hands on the steering wheel."
'He was deciding whether to stay or to go'
As they walked towards the car, Gomes-Piroto saw people on the far side of the road to his left.
"There was a gentleman lying on his back on the grass. I clearly walked to the parking bay and there was a girl and a guy. The girl's leg/hip didn't look [like it was] where it was supposed to be. She was still lying on the ground... around her there was a whole bunch of people," he said.
As he walked back to his friend's driveway, he took out his phone to call for help. At that point people were starting to emerge from their houses to see what had happened.
He said Futter got out, looked at the front and side of his car, then at the group of people, and then went back to his vehicle.
"I remember telling a friend, I got this distinctive feeling that he was deciding whether to stay or to go. I just had this feeling that he was debating the possibility in his head, I could see it in his eyes."
He could not remember how it happened but said he discussed getting the keys with his friends, and then ended up with the keys in his hand.
Futter apparently approached him to ask for his keys back, at which point Gomes-Piroto said he noticed the strong smell of liquor on his breath, bloodshot eyes and a slight slur in his speech. His body was swaying and he had a cut with a bit of blood on his face.
He said that from his vast experience – as a partying student at university, and as the only male teacher at a school at one stage, who very often identified and dealt with intoxicated pupils who smuggled in alcohol to school events – he felt Futter displayed the common signs of someone under the influence of alcohol.
'F**k your sugar water'
Gomes-Piroto said as Futter grabbed his hand to try and get his keys back, he explained to Futter he had just been in an accident, that he should calm down and that if he wanted, he could get him sugar water.
Amid back-and-forth tugging in which he could feel Futter's nails digging into his hand, he alleged Futter became "extremely aggressive" and said: "Give me my keys, give me my fucking keys. Do you know who I am?"
"He turned his shoulders, his other arm was free, I felt almost like he was going to swing at me. He did not. He got quite loud. He said: 'fuck your sugar water'."
Gomes-Piroto said he felt that the gathering crowd had defused the situation, changing Futter's attitude to one of apparent resignation as he pleaded for his keys with slumped shoulders and then went back to his car.
The court heard that Gomes-Piroto handed the keys to a member of the neighbourhood watch contingent, followed later by medical and police officials.
Defence lawyer Keith Gess questioned why the witness never approached police to make a statement and only ended up giving one in May 2017, five months after the incident.
Gomes-Piroto replied that he had been very overwhelmed by the ordeal. It was the first time he had experienced anything like it, and had explained what happened to the neighbourhood watch and a private investigator.
Gess also wondered why the witness claimed an assault had taken place when his client never swung at him, and why no swearing was mentioned in the statement.
Witness' version challenged
The court heard that Gomes-Piroto had put the "basics" into his statement and had not thought of the aggression towards him as being the main event of that night.
Gess also put it to him that he had his story wrong.
According to his client, he had been with a female partner at the scene nearly the whole time.
He had also been disorientated and shocked by the collision and the gathering crowd. The injuries to the side of his head and on the bridge of his nose had also left him in a state of confusion.
Gess said his client's version was that Gomes-Piroto had been the aggressive one that night, maybe because he thought he was going to run away from the collision scene.
"You grabbed him out of the car. He was physically, violently pulled out his car when he was going to get his cellphone and his keys were in his hand at that stage," Gess put it to him.
Gomes-Piroto disagreed and said he did not put his hands on anyone that night.
He added: "I work with kids. You don't need force, you don't need aggression. Aggression leads to aggression. It makes the situation worse."
He conceded under cross-examination that it was possible that it was already dark at the time of the incident that night, that Futter could have had been disorientated, shocked, and injured, and that Futter may have been trying to get his keys, not swing at him.
Futter's bail was extended until his next appearance on February 7.