Horrific details of escape room deaths
Horrific details have emerged about the deaths of five teens who were killed while locked inside a recreational "escape room" in Poland when a fire broke out.
Firefighters in the city of Koszalin found the bodies of the young victims on Friday after they extinguished a fire in a room adjacent to the one the girls had entered while celebrating a birthday.
Last night, four of the five victims were named on local news websites and social media as Karolina Barabas, Gosia Tymieniecka, Wiktoria Julia Pietras and Amelia Wieczorek.
The teens were believed to have been good friends in the same class at school.
Autopsies showed the girls died of carbon monoxide asphyxiation, prosecutors said, a technical term for smoke inhalation.
A faulty heating system appears to have caused a fire at the house where the children died in northern Poland, according to investigators.
A 26-year-old man employed at the facility which was installed in a rented dwelling was admitted to hospital 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," Mr 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, Mr Gasiorowski said.
Earlier on 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," Mr Suski said. A spokesman for local firefighters, Tomasz Kubiak, said the units responding to the blaze had to use special equipment and force their way into the locked escape room.
President Andrzej Duda described the incident on Twitter as a "crushing tragedy" and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has sent condolences to the victims' relatives.
The country's interior minister has ordered fire safety inspections at more than 1000 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.
Teachers, psychologists and local education authorities met on Saturday to discuss ways of helping students at the school the five girls attended deal with the trauma.
Students, teachers, city authorities and residents attended a memorial Catholic Mass at noon at the local church. Local residents placed flowers and lights in front of the location, a two-storey house with a huge "Escape Room" sign in front.
On Sunday, Koszalin Mayor Piotr Jedlinski declared a day of mourning and appealed to residents to hold no entertainment gatherings or parties. The annual Epiphany procession was cancelled.
"The families want peace and quiet as they face their great tragedy," Mr Jedlinski said.
- with AP