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Vue Entertainment Ltd admits safety failures following man’s death

A cinema has admitted health and safety failures after a reclining seat came down on a dad’s neck and killed him.

Ateeq Rafiq, 24, suffered ‘catastrophic’ injuries in the freak accident at the Star City Centre venue in Birmingham in March 2018. Vue Entertainment Ltd admitted two charges at Birmingham Crown Court under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act.

The company pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that 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.

The court was told how the dad-of-one had gone with his wife to the cinema at 4.30pm on 9 March and bought tickets from a machine for seats in Gold Class, screen 17. The couple, from Aston, picked seats C5 and C6 with Mr Rafiq sitting in C5. At the end of the film he realised he could not find either his keys or his phone, thinking they may have slipped down the side of the seat. It was a reclining seat and which had a footrest which pulled up. He got up and went under the seat to look, but very quickly the footrest started to come down on him.

An inquest previously heard that his wife, Ayesha Sardar, tried to hold it up when she realised what was happening. She alerted staff who tried for about 10 to 15 minutes before releasing Mr Rafiq. They could not get the buttons which operated the footrest to work, and eventually had to break it off. Paramedics arrived at the scene at 7.55pm, and Mr Rafiq was taken to Heartlands Hospital where he died a week later from a hypoxic brain injury. A week-long inquest was told the seat was missing a bar that would have allowed him to be released by hand.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, Birmingham coroner Emma Brown said there had been ‘missed opportunities to undertake comprehensive safety checks of the chairs.’

“If the seat had been fitted and maintained in the correct manner, Mr Rafiq would not have died,” she said.

Following the inquest, a Vue spokesperson said: “We are 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 and will now reflect on the findings of the inquest.”

The crown court sentencing was adjourned until 20 July.

Metro April 2021


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