Polish officials have shut down 13 escape room entertainment venues for safety flaws, and the prime minister asked people on Sunday to report such lapses to firefighters and police, after five teenage girls were killed in a fire.
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 and other European cities.
The country’s 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 while celebrating a birthday, had no emergency evacuation route. They were the first known deaths in an escape room.
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 man employed at the escape room was admitted to hospital with burns.
Prosecutors say a leaky gas container inside a heater is the most likely cause of the blaze.
Poland’s police chief, Jarosław Szymczyk, said other people had previously posted critical remarks online about the safety of the escape room site, but local officials were not notified.
The 28-year-old who designed and runs the site has been detained and will be questioned, Szymczyk said. His injured employee is also going to be questioned.
During a Catholic memorial 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 later on Sunday in front of the house where they died.
The Polish prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, along with Suski and Szymczyk, spoke after holding a meeting in which they discussed with other officials ways of improving safety at entertainment venues. 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 needed to be immediately fixed. Authorities ordered the closure of 13 of them.