Officials shut down escape rooms after teen deaths

Officials shut down escape rooms after teen deaths

Polish officials have shut down 13 escape room sites over safety issues after five teenage girls were killed in a fire.

Firefighter chief Leszek Suski says the escape room at a private house in the city of Koszalin where the girls died had no emergency evacuation route.

The 15-year-olds had been celebrating a birthday when they died on Friday, locked inside a room.

RELATED: Five girls locked in home-based escape room died from ‘asphyxiation’

Firefighters found their bodies after they extinguished a fire next to the locked room.

Post-mortem examinations showed the girls died of carbon monoxide inhalation.

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

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

His employee, who suffered burns in the fire, will also be questioned.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki spoke after holding a meeting in which officials discussed ways to improve safety at entertainment venues. He called the teenagers’ deaths an “immense tragedy”.

Since Friday, more than 200 of Poland’s some 1100 escape rooms have been checked, revealing a number of safety flaws that needed to be immediately fixed.

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.

The escape room craze began in Hungary in Budapest’s dilapidated buildings about ten years ago, according to The independent, and has swept the world and gained popularity even in the US.

The idea behind escape rooms is to assemble a team of up to five people (in the US the trend is towards up to 10 people) who are locked in a room for an hour and can only get out if they solve a sequence of puzzles and treasure hunts that lead them to a key.

The games are interactive, adrenaline-inducing and potential bonding exercises for friends.

“It isn’t about who gets out first, or even if you get out in time,” says Budapest local Attila Gyurkovics, who pioneered the concept.

“It’s about that hour spent immersed in the game. Getting out successfully is just the icing on the cake”, he told The independent.

But the real icing on the cake may be getting out alive.

Poland has over a thousand escape rooms, with dozens potentially failing safety standards.

Which raises the question: How many other escape rooms across the world violate building safety standards and may be death traps waiting to happen?

According to NBC News, escape rooms in the US are subject to a safety inspection once they are built.

“In order to stay in business, you have to stay up with safety standards, and you have to play by the book,” said John Denley, president of Escape Room International, which designs and builds escape rooms across the country.

“It helps everyone sleep better at night.”

While Mr Denley says that escape rooms in the US are video monitored, and that rooms must have low-voltage equipment to prevent fire, this was clearly not the case in the escape room that claimed the lives of the girls in Koszalin.

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