Heartfelt tributes have been paid to a young father ‘who had everything to live for’ who died in a freak accident after he became wedged under a VIP cinema seat and suffered a heart attack.
Ateeq Rafiq, 24, had gone to watch a film with his wife when he dropped his phone between seats. When he bent down at the end of the film the electronic footrest on the Gold Class seats is believed to have clamped down on his head, causing him to panic.
He lost consciousness after suffering a suspected cardiac arrest as his distraught wife and mother of his two-year-old daughter watching on screamed.
The man was in the Gold Class screening which uses electronic chairs and foot rests – his head became wedged in the foot rest
Paramedics were called to the Vue Cinema in Star City, Birmingham and managed to restart his heart before taking him to the nearby Heartland Hospital but he tragically died a week later.
Paying tribute to him, sister-in-law Fatima Arzo said: ‘We are grieving and completely in shock. My sister is in pieces.
‘We are grateful to everyone who tried to help him, and at the moment we are praying and trying to come to terms with the fact we lost a loved one.’
A security guard, who heard the panic over the radio and rushed to help free Ateeq, said: ‘I was outside the cinema when I heard shouting on the radio.
‘I ran into the screen and found staff members desperately trying to free a man who was stuck on the floor.
‘His head was trapped underneath one of the footrests and there was a real tussle going on.
The man had been watching a film at the Vue Cinema at the Star City complex in Birmingham when his head got stuck
‘He was panicking when I first got there but after a few minutes he just lost consciousness and went still.
‘His poor wife was screaming his name as we tried to pull him back out. It was really horrible to witness.
‘It took us 10 minutes to break the footrest and release him, and another staff member started performing CPR.
‘The ambulance arrived shortly afterwards and paramedics tried to save him. I think they managed to bring him round.
‘I carried on with the rest of my shift afterwards but I was really shaken. I can’t believe he died. It’s a terrible way to go..’
Another close friend of Ateeq, who asked not to be named, said: ‘Ateeq was only 24 years old. He was so young and had his whole life ahead of him.
‘His family have lost a son, a father, a brother and a husband. He left behind a lovely daughter who is only two years old. He was a lovely, humble, down to earth guy who was always smiling. He literally had everything to live for.
‘We are all devastated to have lost him so early and are in shock. We cannot believe it.’
A spokeswoman for Vue Cinemas said: ‘We can confirm an incident took place on Friday 9 March at our Birmingham cinema, of which a full investigation is under way.
‘We are committed to helping and assisting those involved and respect their wishes for privacy and no publicity.’
The cinema complex at Star City has 25 screens including three Gold Class rooms that are intended to provide comfort and luxury.
The company’s website says: ‘The Gold Class ticket price includes complimentary popcorn during your film and is strictly for over 18’s, offering luxury seating with a fully licensed bar and an enhanced viewing experience.
‘Gold Class customers are welcome to visit the Gold Class bar to enjoy a drink before and during the screening.’