Cinema chain fined £750,000 after their chair crushed film-goer, 24

Vue cinema chain is fined £750,000 for safety breaches after film-goer, 24, was crushed to death by motorised seat as he tried to find his dropped phone and keys

  • Ateeq Rafiq, 24, was at the Vue Cinema in Star City, Birmingham with his wife 
  • At the end of the film he tried to locate his car keys and mobile phone handset
  • When he stuck his head under the footrest the seat crushed him for 15 minutes
  • Cinema chain Vue had admitted to health and safety breaches earlier this year 

A major cinema chain has been fined £750,000 for safety breaches connected to the death of a film-goer who was crushed under a chair.

Vue Entertainment Ltd was slapped with the major fine at Birmingham Crown Court after Ateeq Rafiq, 24, died while trapped under a cinema chair in 2018. 

Desperate attempts were made to release Mr Rafiq from the motorised chair, but he suffered ‘catastrophic’ injuries in the freak accident at the Star City venue in March 2018. 

Fining Vue Entertainment, which was also ordered to pay £130,000 in costs, Judge Heidi Kubik QC said Ateeq Rafiq died in ‘an accident that never should have happened’. 

The father-of-one had gone with his wife to the cinema at 4.30pm on March 9 and bought tickets from a machine for seats in Gold Class, screen 17.

The couple, from Aston, picked C5 and C6 with Mr Rafiq sitting in C5.

Vue Entertainment Ltd has been fined £750,000 at Birmingham Crown Court for safety breaches after film-goer Ateeq Rafiq died after being trapped under a cinema chair in 2018

Ateeq Rafiq, 24, died after he was crushed by a VIP cinema seat similar to this one while trying to retrieve his mobile phone and car keys

At the end of the film he realised he could not find either his keys or his phone and suspected they may have slipped down the side of his reclining seat.

He got up and went under the seat to check, but the footrest started to come down on him, crushing his head.

Speaking at sentencing today, Judge Heidi Kubik QC 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.’

Accepting various mitigating factors advanced on behalf of Vue, the judge added: ‘It is obviously positive mitigation on behalf of this company that they have no previous convictions or matters coming before the court. 

‘They have a very positive health and safety record.’

An inquest previously heard that his wife Ayesha Sardar tried to hold it up when she realised what was happening.

Mrs Sardar alerted staff who tried for approximately 10 to 15 minutes before releasing Mr Rafiq.

They could not get the buttons which operated the footrest to work.

Paramedics arrived at 7.55pm and Mr Rafiq was taken to Heartlands Hospital where he died on March 16 after suffering a hypoxic brain injury.

In April 2021, 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 that persons were not exposed to risk to their health and safety and failing to make a suitable and safe risk assessment between January 1, 2007 and March 9, 2018 in relation to the use of powered cinema seating.

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