Poland shuts down 13 escape game sites due to safety flaws

  • A fire engine stands outside an “Escape Room” game location in Koszalin, northern Poland, on Friday, Jan. 4, 2019. A fire broke out at the “Escape Room” game location, killing five teenage girls and injuring a man, authorities said. 0(AP Photo/TVN News via AP)

  • Forensic and other police experts examine the site of a fire in an Escape Room, in Koszalin, northern Poland, on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019. Investigators in Poland on Saturday blamed a gas leak in a heating system at an “Escape Room” for a fire that killed five teenage girls and injured a man. (AP Photo)

WARSAW, Poland — Polish officials have shut down 13 escape room entertainment sites for safety flaws and the prime minister asked people 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.

Fire chief Leszek Suski said the escape room at a private house in the city of Koszalin, where the 15-year-old girls died 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 man employed there was hospitalized 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 previously 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, Szymczyk said. His injured employee is also going to be questioned.

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.

He later led public prayers in front of the house where they died. People left hundreds of lights, toys and white flowers by the fence. Many of them told private TVN24 that they had children or grandchildren the girls’ age and were devastated by the deaths.

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.

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