Poland: Fire kills five girls locked in home-based es­cape room

Miami Herald (Sunday) - - World - As­so­ci­ated Press

WARSAW, POLAND

A faulty heating sys­tem ap­peared to have caused a fire at a house in north­ern Poland where five teenage girls died while locked in­side a recre­ational es­cape room that was in­stalled in the rented dwelling, in­ves­ti­ga­tors said Satur­day.

Fire­fight­ers in the city of Kosza­lin found the bod­ies of the 15-year-old vic­tims Fri­day af­ter they ex­tin­guished a fire in a room ad­ja­cent to the one the girls had en­tered while cel­e­brat­ing a birth­day.

Au­top­sies showed the girls died of smoke in­hala­tion.

A 26-year-old man em­ployed at the lo­ca­tion was hos­pi­tal­ized with burns.

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.

Kosza­lin prose­cu­tor Ryszard Ga­siorowski said a leak in a bot­tled gas heating sys­tem was a prob­a­ble cause of the fire. Ear­lier, fire­fight­ers blamed faulty elec­tric wiring and sub­stan­dard se­cu­rity pro­ce­dures.

“Pre­lim­i­nary find­ings sug­gest that the fire was caused by an un­sealed gas con­tainer in­side a heater,” Ga­siorowski said.

The fire broke out in a part of the de­tached house that was be­ing used as a re­cep­tion room for the en­ter­tain­ment venue and blocked the em­ployee’s way to the girls, he said.

Fire­fight­ers and other wit­nesses were ques­tioned, but the in­jured em­ployee’s con­di­tion pre­vented in­ves­ti­ga­tors from in­ter­view­ing him im­me­di­ately, Ga­siorowski said.

Ear­lier Satur­day, na­tional fire­fight­ers’ chief Leszek Suski said there was ev­i­dence of “a lot of neg­li­gence” at the venue, in­clud­ing makeshift elec­tri­cal wiring too close to flammable ma­te­ri­als and the ab­sence of a proper evac­u­a­tion route.

“Se­cu­rity was not en­sured, and that led to the tragedy,” Suski said.

A spokesman for lo­cal fire­fight­ers, To­masz Ku­biak, said the units re­spond­ing to the blaze had to use spe­cial­ized equip­ment and force their way into the locked es­cape room of some 75 square feet.

Poland’s in­te­rior min­is­ter has or­dered fire safety inspections at more than 1,000 es­cape room lo­ca­tions across the coun­try. The first inspections were be­ing held Satur­day, the In­te­rior Min­istry said. Pre­vi­ously, there was no of­fi­cial re­quire­ment for fire safety cer­tifi­cates at such lo­ca­tions.

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