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Birmingham Star City cinema death man ‘was searching for keys’

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Ateeq Rafiq died a week after the incident at Birmingham’s StarCity on 16 March 2018

A cinemagoer died after his neck got trapped in an electronic footrest as he searched for his phone and keys, an inquest heard.

Ateeq Rafiq, 24, had been in a “Gold Class” seat at the Vue multiplex at Star City, Birmingham, last March.

His wife and staff spent 15 minutes trying to free him from the mechanism, a jury heard.

Coroner Emma Brown said Mr Rafiq died from “catastrophic” brain injuries after suffering a cardiac arrest.

Ayesha Sardar told the inquest her husband “went fully under the seat with just his legs sticking out” while reaching for his possessions at the end of the film.

Jurors heard the footrest was initially in a raised position but started to come down “very quickly”.

‘Turned blue’

Mrs Sardar noticed it descended and tried unsuccessfully to hold it up before running for help.

Cinema staff then attempted to release Mr Rafiq for 15 minutes while she was taken outside, she said.

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, the inquest was told.

Mrs Sardar said she “ran back in” when she heard he was not breathing, and “saw that he was blue”.

Mr Rafiq, from Aston, Birmingham, died in hospital a week later.

His cause of death was confirmed as a cardiac arrest following compression of the neck.

Charles Simmons-Jacobs, from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), said he found it was “impossible” to lift eight of the footrests in the theatre, out of 52.

This was the case for 14 seats in the cinema complex, out of more than 100.

Mrs Sardar said her husband was “always happy and positive”.

“His smile was the kindest and his heart was the greatest,” she said.

The inquest, due to last a week, continues.

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