Missed safety checks led to death of cinema-goer whose neck was crushed under seat

Ateeq Rafiq died when his neck became trapped in a seat at Vue Cinema, Star City in Birmingham.Ateeq Rafiq died when his neck became trapped in a seat at Vue Cinema, Star City in Birmingham.
Ateeq Rafiq died when his neck became trapped in a seat at Vue Cinema, Star City in Birmingham.
A jury has concluded that missed opportunities led to the death of a cinema-goer whose neck became trapped in an electronic footrest as he searched for his keys and phone under his seat.

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

Birmingham Coroner's Court heard staff at the cinema, who spent up to 15 minutes attempting to lift the footrest, "did not have relevant training".

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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 father-of-one, from Aston, Birmingham, suffered a cardiac arrest but was revived by CPR at the scene and taken to Heartlands Hospital.

Area coroner Emma Brown said she would not be recommending any further investigation as the chair in question had since been taken out of manufacture and was no longer used by the cinema.

Addressing Mr Rafiq's family, Ms Brown said: "I hope it brings you a little comfort that these chairs will no longer be used by the cinema and are no longer in manufacture.

"There is no identifiable ongoing risk and I will not be recommending that any further investigations take place."

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

Detailing their findings, the jury foreman said: "The entrapment resulted from Mr Rafiq getting off his chair to search for his phone and keys which he believed he had dropped under the chair.

"When searching for these items, the leg rest on the chair returned to its starting position.

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"His head and neck were trapped by the leg rest, leading to compression of the neck, cardiac arrest, oxygen loss and brain injury.

"The downward force resulted in catastrophic and ultimately fatal injuries."

Explaining the reasons why Mr Rafiq had died in the incident, the foreman continued: "The double acting actuator was fitted at Manchester Lowry without an intermediary bar before being transferred to Star City in 2013.

"The staff responsible for fitting and maintenance did not have relevant training.

"The manufacturer did not explain why a new kit was introduced and its implications for customer safety."

He added: "There were missed opportunities to undertake comprehensive safety checks of chairs, including to test the leg rest manually.

"If the seat had been fitted and maintained in the correct manner, Mr Rafiq would not have died."

After the conclusion of the inquest, Mr Rafiq's family paid tribute to their "loving father, son, husband and friend".

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In a statement, they said: "Even though he is no longer amongst us all, he remains now a beautiful memory in our hearts and minds, especially for his three-year-old daughter.

"The grief and the amount of pain we have felt over this past year can never be described or put into words.

"It was a huge loss for everyone who knew Ateeq and his presence will always be felt around his community - whether that be the school he attended or the gym he used to train at and around his family home.

"Please continue to keep him in your prayers."

A spokeswoman for Vue, who own the cinema, said in a statement: "Everyone at Vue was shocked and saddened by this tragic accident and our sincerest thoughts and condolences go to Mr Rafiq's family and friends.

"We have been listening carefully to all of the evidence and information presented over the last six days and we will now reflect on the findings of the inquest."