Vue admits failures over cinema-goer crushed to death by seat in Birmingham

Jessica Murphy
·2-min read
Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo
Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Vue cinemas has admitted failures in health and safety after a filmgoer died when his neck got trapped in an electronic footrest.

Ateeq Rafiq, 24, suffered “catastrophic” injuries at the StarCity entertainment complex in Birmingham in 2018 when his head and neck became trapped under his seat as he searched for his phone and keys after watching a movie.

Vue Entertainment Ltd admitted two charges at Birmingham crown court under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

The company pleaded guilty to failing to ensure persons were not exposed to risk to their health and safety, and failing to make a suitable and safe risk assessment between 1 January 2007 and 9 March 2018 in relation to the use of powered cinema seating, BirminghamLive reported.

A previous inquest in 2019 recorded a verdict of accidental death, with the jury foreman ruling there had been “missed opportunities to undertake comprehensive safety checks of the chairs”, according to the BBC. He said: “If the seat had been fitted and maintained in the correct manner, Mr Rafiq would not have died.”

Rafiq, a father of one from Aston, Birmingham, visited the cinema at StarCity with his wife on 9 March 2018 and bought tickets for gold-class seats.

At the end of the film when he could not find his keys or phone, he suspected they may have slipped down the side of his reclining seat, which had a footrest pulled up. 

As he searched under the seat, the footrest started to come down on him and his wife, Ayesha Sardar, attempted to hold it up when she realised what was happening. 

Sardar alerted staff, who spent 10-15 minutes trying to release Rafiq as they could not get the buttons that operate the footrest to work.

Paramedics took Rafiq to the city’s Heartlands hospital where he died on 16 March after suffering a hypoxic brain injury.

The week-long inquest was told the seat was missing a bar that would have enabled the footrest to be lifted by hand.

Sentencing was adjourned until 20 July.

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