Two workers were standing just feet away from the point where a JCB was repeatedly rammed into a Tesco Express during the early hours of today.
A witness has told the Mail of the moments they saw the machinery strike the shop in Throston, Hartlepool, at around 2.25am today.
Two women who were working a night shift are thought to have been taking a break in the office behind the ATM machine of the shop when raiders targeted the business.
The JCB was used as they tried to steal the cash machine.
The 50-year-old man who lives near to the scene, but asked not to be named, said: "They thought they were going to be killed."
He added: "There's a lane at the back of the shop for deliveries, but they're not supposed to have deliveries until after 7am and I heard a lorry reversing up it and I could hear the reversing bleep and thought, it's 2.20am, but I've got a cold and I couldn't get to sleep.
"The bleeping went on for about five minutes.
"Then I saw this JCB drive around and do a U-turn and then it reversed into a tree and then rammed full pelt forward into the front of the building and heard a loud bang.
"It went forwards and backwards and rammed the building, then went around the other side and I couldn't see what it was doing, but I could hear banging.
"Then I heard lots of shouting out the front and I thought, 'What's going on?'
"Then I saw a Land Rover drive out, one with an open back, and there was a driver and three lads sat in the back and they drove out towards Hart Lane and then to Worset Lane.
"I phoned the police and they say to stay on the line so they could speak to one of their drivers and then about 30 seconds later, I saw a police van flying up.
"I got some clothes on and went around to the shop. I could hear shouting, so I thought someone was hurt and started looking around and saw the shop and a window was all smashed.
"The JCB was still running and then I saw the two shop girls.
"They moved a barrier and shutter and shouted and I told them 'It's ok, I've called the police' and I think they might have thought I was one of the raiders.
"They were shaken and said 'We thought we were going to be killed' and they had been on a tea break in the office when it happened.
"They were really shook up and I said to them they should have a cup of tea because they would be in shock.
"They were very upset and trying to call their manager.
"I went to walk the dog this morning and I went up Worset Lane and saw what remains of a car burned out."
Anyone with information can call Cleveland Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.