Cinema-goer killed after neck gets stuck when he dropped his phone under seat

A cinema-goer died after his neck became trapped in an electronic footrest as he searched for his keys and phone under the seat, an inquest has heard.

Ateeq Rafiq was with his wife when he became stuck in the “gold class” cinema seat at Birmingham’s Star City complex in March last year.

His widow Ayesha Sardar told the inquest how she unsuccessfully tried to free him as Vue Cinema Staff attempted to life the footrest.

Although they eventually managed to get him out, the pressure on his neck caused Mr Rafiq to suffer a cardiac arrest.

The first day of a jury inquest at Birmingham Coroner’s Court was told the Aston man was revived by CPR at the scene and taken to Heartlands Hospital.

Area coroner Emma Brown told jurors the father-of-one died a week later from “catastrophic” brain injuries.

The coroner told a jury of six men and five woman how Mr Rafiq started to look under the seat when the footrest was in a raised position.

Despite his wife’s attempts to hold it up the footrest quickly came down on the the 24-year-old.

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.

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 – tried to pull the footrest up but it trapped her fingers.

She ran outside the screen and shouted for help.

In a second statement paying tribute to her husband, Mrs Sardar added: “Ateeq was a loving father, son, husband and friend.

“He was always keeping himself active and had a brilliant sense of humour. His smile was the kindest and his heart was the greatest.

There is not a day goes by that we don’t miss him and think of him. He is now a beautiful memory, especially for his three-year-old daughter. Please continue to keep him in your prayers.”

Pathologist Dr Olaf Biedrzycki told jurors Mr Rafiq, whose father was also present at the inquest, had died from swelling to the brain caused by a cardiac arrest after pressure to his neck.

Mr Biedrzycki said: “There is nothing in the heart that could have caused this cardiac arrest. It seems that the footrest was either pressing on the right side of his neck or the back of his neck.”

The inquest is expected to last up to seven days.