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Five teenage girls, celebrating a birthday, die in fire at an ‘escape room’

Five teenage girls, celebrating a birthday, die in fire at an ‘escape room’
Police and firefighters at the scene where a fire broke out at an “escape room” in the northern Polish city of Koszalin on Wednesday, leaving five teenage girls dead and one man injured. (Radoslaw Kolesnik / AFP/Getty Images)

Investigators on Saturday blamed a gas leak in a heating system for a fire that killed five teenage girls and injured a man at an “escape room” in northern Poland.

The bodies of the 15-year-old victims were found Friday in the city of Koszalin after firefighters extinguished a blaze in an adjacent room. Prosecutors said that carbon monoxide inhalation was the likely cause of the deaths.

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

In escape room games, players are locked inside a room or building and must find clues and solve puzzles that help them get out. The rooms are highly popular among teenagers in Poland.

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

Gasiorowski said the fire probably broke out in the reception room and blocked the employees’ path to evacuate the girls. Autopsies will be conducted to confirm the cause of death.

He said firefighters who put out the blaze and other witnesses were being questioned.

Earlier Saturday, national fire chief Leszek Suski said that electrical wiring in the building was makeshift and too close to flammable materials.

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

He said there was no proper evacuation route and a “lot of negligence” at the location.

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 escape room.

Poland’s interior minister has ordered fire safety inspections at more than 1,000 escape rooms in business 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.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki sent condolences to the victims’ relatives. Officials have extended psychological, psychiatric and other support to the girls’ families and to their classmates and teachers at the school they attended, A Mass was held Saturday at the local church.

Local residents were placing flowers and lights in front of the location, a detached house.

The girls, friends from one school class said, were celebrating one of their birthdays.

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