Cinema seat horror: Chain admits failures over death of dad trapped in electronic footrest at Star City

A cinema chain has admitted failures in health and safety after a father died after his neck became trapped in an electronic footrest at Birmingham's Star City.

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 Star City's Vue Cinema in March 2018.

Desperate attempts were made to release Mr Rafiq, but he suffered "catastrophic" brain injuries in the accident.

Vue Entertainment Ltd admitted two charges at Birmingham Crown Court earlier this week, under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Sentencing has been adjourned until July 21.

A jury inquest into his death in 2019 heard that 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.

During a summary of the background to the tragedy, the coroner said Mr Rafiq started to look under the seat when the footrest was raised. But the footrest very quickly started to come down as Mr Rafiq’s wife, Ayesha Sardar, tried unsuccessfully to hold it up.

Checks

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.

Pathologist Dr Olaf Biedrzycki told jurors Mr Rafiq had died from swelling to the brain caused by a cardiac arrest after pressure to his neck.

The jury eventually concluded that missed opportunities led to Mr Rafiq's death. The jury of six men and five women also concluded there were missed opportunities to “undertake comprehensive safety checks of chairs” and said Mr Rafiq would not have died had the seat been fitted and maintained correctly.

The jury returned a conclusion of accidental death to the court.

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