By: Shilpa Sharma
LONDON headquartered multinational cinema chain Vue Entertainment Ltd has been fined £750,000 for safety breaches following the death of a film-goer who was crushed under a motorised reclining chair in 2018.
The Birmingham Crown Court slapped the fine after Ateeq Rafiq, 24, died after being trapped under a cinema chair on March 9, 2018. He had 118 stones of pressure forced on his neck by the footrest of his Gold Class seat, the court heard.
Cinema staff battled for 15 minutes before dragging him out, but Rafiq suffered a heart attack triggered by a lack of oxygen to the brain during the process.
He was then rushed to hospital from the Star City in Aston, Birmingham, but died a week later due to ‘catastrophic’ injuries.
It was later found that parts of the footrest mechanism in the cinema chair was ‘fitted incorrectly’ and was never tested.
Besides fining the cinema chain, Judge Heidi Kubik QC also ordered to pay £130,000 in costs, saying 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 Rafiq sitting in C5. 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.
After the accident, it was found that seat C5 had a blown fuse.
While sentencing on Tuesday (20), Kubik said, “Nothing I can say can ameliorate the loss suffered by his wife and family. “
“There was no risk assessment at all and members of the public were allowed to operate the chairs unsupervised…Clearly a number of members of the public were exposed to the serious risk of harm,” she added.
A spokesperson for Vue said, “’The death of Mr. Rafiq saddened everybody at Vue and we remain deeply sorry for the loss suffered by his family and friends.”
“We hope that that the end of these proceedings brings some closure to them following this tragic accident. All recliners of the type involved in the incident have been removed from our cinemas and we have taken all possible steps to learn from this and ensure it could not happen again.”