Man died after neck got trapped in cinema footrest, inquest hears

A cinema-goer died after his neck became trapped in an electronic footrest as he searched for his keys and phone under his seat, an inquest heard.

The Vue Cinema at Star City in Birmingham. Photo: Google
The Vue Cinema at Star City in Birmingham. Photo: Google

Ateeq Rafiq, 24, was with his wife when he became trapped by the "gold class" cinema seat at Birmingham's Star City complex in March last year.

His widow Ayesha Sardar paid tribute to him as a happy, positive and loving father as she told the inquest how she unsuccessfully tried to free him.

She said she then sought help from Vue Cinema staff, who spent up to 15 minutes attempting to lift the footrest.

The first day of a jury inquest at Birmingham Coroner's Court was told Mr Rafiq, from Aston, suffered a cardiac arrest but was revived by CPR at the scene and taken to Heartlands Hospital.

Area coroner Emma Brown told jurors the father-of-one died a week later from "catastrophic" brain injuries.

Trapped searching for phone

During a summary of the background to the tragedy given to the jury of six men and five women, the coroner said Mr Rafiq started to look under the seat when the footrest was in a raised position.

But the footrest very quickly started to come down as Mr Rafiq's wife tried unsuccessfully to hold it up.

Staff eventually managed to free Mr Rafiq by removing a bolt from the seat, which had trapped either the back or right side of his neck.

In a statement read to the jury by the coroner, Mrs Sardar said she and her husband bought tickets for seats C5 and C6 from a machine.

Mrs Sardar said: "At the end of the film, Ateeq noticed that he couldn't find his mobile phone and keys. He asked me to lend him my mobile phone so he was able to use the torch.

"He bent down on to his knees. After a short while the footrest started to come down."

Mrs Sardar - who said there were no lights on the chair's control panel - then tried to pull the footrest up but it trapped her fingers, and she then ran outside the screening area and shouted for help.

'Loving father, son and husband'

In a second statement paying tribute to her husband, Mrs Sardar added: "Ateeq was a loving father, son, husband and friend.

"He was always keeping himself active and had a brilliant sense of humour. His smile was the kindest and his heart was the greatest.

"There is not a day goes by that we don't miss him and think of him. He is now a beautiful memory, especially for his three-year-old daughter. Please continue to keep him in your prayers."

Pathologist Dr Olaf Biedrzycki told jurors Mr Rafiq, whose father was also present at the inquest, had died from swelling to the brain caused by a cardiac arrest after pressure to his neck.

Mr Biedrzycki said: "There is nothing in the heart that could have caused this cardiac arrest. It seems that the footrest was either pressing on the right side of his neck or the back of his neck."

The inquest is expected to last up to seven days.

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