Vue Cinema apologises to family of father who died after footrest trapped him by the neck

Vue Cinema has apologised to the family of a young father who died after he was trapped in a footrest.

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

Film-goer Ateeq Rafiq became trapped by the neck in an electronic footrest at Birmingham's Star City complex in March 2018.

The 24-year-old, who had visited the cinema with his wife, was looking underneath his seat for his mobile phone and keys when the electronic footrest quickly began to come down on his neck, causing "catastrophic" brain injuries. He died a week later in hospital.

On Tuesday Vue Entertainment Ltd was fined £750,000 at Birmingham Crown Court for safety breaches connected to Mr Rafiq's death after pleading guilty to breaking health and safety laws.

The company has now apologised to Mr Rafiq's family and friends.

A Vue statement said: “The death of Mr. Rafiq saddened everybody at Vue and we remain deeply sorry for the loss suffered by his family and friends. We hope that that the end of these proceedings brings some closure to them following this tragic accident."

The company also confirmed all seats of the type involved in tragedy are no longer used.

"All recliners of the type involved in the incident have been removed from our cinemas and we have taken all possible steps to learn from this and ensure it could not happen again," the statement continued.

The jury at Mr Rafiq's inquest concluded that missed opportunities lead to his death, as well as missed opportunities to “undertake comprehensive safety checks of chairs”, after they heard how the footrest on Mr Rafiq's seat - and a number of others - could not be lifted by hand.

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

Vue Cinema staff spent up to 15 minutes attempting to lift the footrest, eventually managing to free Mr Rafiq by removing a bolt from the seat.

In a statement read out at his inquest in 2019, Mrs Sardar paid tribute to her husband, saying: "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."

Handing down the fine as well as £130,000 in costs, Judge Heidi Kubik QC said Ateeq Rafiq died in "an accident that never should have happened".

The judge said: "Nothing I can say can ameliorate the loss suffered by his wife and family.

"It is conceded that clearly a number of members of the public were exposed to the same risk of harm. The complete lack of a risk assessment was a significant cause of the actual harm that resulted."

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