Thursday 20 June 2019

Poland shuts 13 'escape rooms' after five teens perish in blaze

Emergency: Police and firefighters at the scene of the fire in an escape room in Koszalin, Poland, on Friday night. Photo: Reuters
Emergency: Police and firefighters at the scene of the fire in an escape room in Koszalin, Poland, on Friday night. Photo: Reuters

Monika Scislowska

Polish officials have shut down 13 escape room entertainment sites for safety flaws after five teenage girls were killed in a fire at the weekend.

Players in escape room games are locked inside a room or building and must solve puzzles and find clues that lead them to the key that will unlock the door. Regarded as an intellectual challenge, the games are highly popular among teenagers in Poland.

Fire chief Leszek Suski said the escape room at a private house in the city of Koszalin, where the 15-year-old girls died on Friday locked inside a room celebrating a birthday, had no emergency evacuation route. They were the first known deaths in an escape room, a form of entertainment that has been growing in Poland over the past five years.

Firefighters found the victims' bodies after they extinguished a fire next to the locked room. Autopsies showed that the girls, who were friends from school, died of carbon monoxide inhalation. A young employee was hospitalised with burns.

Prosecutors say a leaky gas container inside a heater is the most likely cause of the blaze.

Police chief Jaroslaw Szymczyk said other people had posted critical remarks online about the safety of that escape room site, but local officials weren't notified.

The 28-year-old who designed and runs the site has been detained and will be questioned, Mr Szymczyk said.

During a memorial Catholic Mass at Koszalin Cathedral, Bishop Edward Dajczak identified the girls by their first names as Julia, Amelia, Gosia, Karolina and Wiktoria.

Public prayers were planned last night in front of the house where they died.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called the girls' deaths an "immense tragedy".

Since Friday, more than 200 of Poland's 1,100 escape rooms have been checked, revealing a number of safety flaws that led to 13 being shut down.

Irish Independent

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