Birmingham & Black Country

Birmingham Star City cinema death: Worker 'froze' as man crushed

Star City and Vue cinema Image copyright Google
Image caption Ateeq Rafiq died a week after becoming trapped at Birmingham's Star City on 16 March last year

A cinema worker who tried to help a man trapped under a seat "froze" and "didn't know what to do", an inquest has heard.

Ateeq Rafiq, 24, died a week after becoming stuck while reaching for his belongings at the Vue multiplex at Star City in Birmingham in March last year.

The inquest in Birmingham earlier heard he was crushed by a force equivalent to three-quarters of a tonne.

Adam Bharoochi told the hearing he could not release Mr Rafiq.

The cinema worker, who was on his first shift in one of the "Gold Class" screen lounges, said he "froze-up for a second because I didn't know what to do".

Mr Bharoochi said Mr Rafiq, who was from Aston in Birmingham, was "making groaning noises".

He added: "I tried to lift the bar but it wouldn't lift at all.

"I'm sorry for what happened."

Blown a fuse

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

He said the seats only work when a customer was seated and after they vacated the control box waited four seconds before returning to a vertical position.

Mr Rafiq's seat had blown a fuse in its control box, Mr Simmons-Jacobs told the inquest.

The seats were controlled by a double "push-pull" actuator mechanism, which meant the footrest could not be lifted by hand.

Mr Simmons-Jacobs said had it been fitted with a single push mechanism, Mr Rafiq would have been able to use his hands to lift the footrest to get back out from under the seat.

Mr Bharoochi, who left the cinema the following month, said he called his colleagues for assistance, none of whom were able to release Mr Rafiq.

The cinema's duty manager, Elliot Stapley, said staff used a wrench to loosen the footrest from the chair, releasing Mr Rafiq.

Emergency services performed CPR before taking him to hospital, where he died a week later.

Coroner Emma Brown said Mr Rafiq, who had been with his wife at the cinema, died from catastrophic brain injuries after suffering a cardiac arrest.

The inquest continues.

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