Inquest Hears How Cinema-Goer In Birmingham Died Whilst Looking For His Keys And Phone
16 May 2019, 15:01
An electronic cinema chair that fatally trapped a film-goer in Birmingham was found to have a blown fuse in its control box, an inquest has heard.
Ateeq Rafiq, 24, died in March last year after his neck became wedged under a leg-rest for up to 15 minutes after he kneeled down to search for his keys and phone.
On the first day of the inquest, a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector said the chair occupied by the father-of-one was among eight in the 52-seat screening room on which the footrest was impossible to lift by hand.
HSE principal specialist inspector Charles Simmons-Jacobs told the hearing other luxury seats had a footrest which could be lifted up due to being fitted with a different actuator.
In a statement read to an inquest jury by the coroner, Mr Rafiq's widow told how her husband's neck was trapped and how she and staff tried to free him.
Mr Simmons-Jacobs was asked to visit the Vue Cinema at Birmingham's Star City complex on March 27 last year as part of a city council inquiry.
He told the court the "gold class" seats were fitted with a pressure pad, meaning the controls only worked when a customer was seated.
After a customer vacated one of the seats, the control box waited for four seconds before returning the headrest and footrest to vertical positions, the inquest heard.
The seat occupied by Mr Rafiq - C5 - was found after the accident to have a blown fuse.
Mr Simmons-Jacobs told the hearing: "The control box that was in C5 originally would not work again because a fuse had blown inside the control box.
"When the rest came down on the deceased and it was stopped from going further, the electrical current built up inside the box to such an extent that the fuse blew."
The inspector found that as well as eight leg-rests in the screening room where Mr Rafiq was trapped, six others elsewhere in the cinema would also not pull up by hand.
Mr Rafiq, from Aston, suffered a cardiac arrest but was revived by CPR at the scene and taken to Heartlands Hospital.
He died a week later from "catastrophic" brain injuries.
During a summary of the background to the tragedy given to the jury of six men and five women, area coroner Emma Brown said Mr Rafiq started to look under the seat when the footrest was in a raised position.
But the footrest quickly started to come down as Mr Rafiq's wife tried 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, the victim's widow Ayesha Sardar paid tribute to him as a happy, positive and loving father.
Describing the incident, 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.
Paying tribute to her husband, Mrs Sardar added: "He was always keeping himself active and had a brilliant sense of humour. His smile was the kindest and his heart was the greatest."
The inquest continues.