Five teenage girls are dead and one man is injured after a fire broke out at “Escape Room” game location in northern Poland.
Local authorities say the fire started about 5pm on Friday (local time) at an escape room venue in Koszalin and the girls were only found after firefighters put out the blaze.
Escape room operators have been quick to reassure the safety of adventure game businesses in Australia after the news, explaining their fire and emergency policies are more comprehensive than some foreign operations.
Koszalin police spokesperson Monika Kosiec said the victims were thought to have been celebrating one of their birthdays.
A man, 25, has been hospitalised with burns and police are still to interview him about the fire.
Highly popular with teenagers across Poland, the “Escape Room” game has players locked inside a room or building and they must find clues that help them get out.
According to local reports, they were trying to solve “logical riddles” to get out of the closed room.
The girls’ tragic deaths coincide with the movie Escape Room released in the US on January 4. The plot involves six adventurous teenagers who travel to an escape room where they have to solve a series of puzzles. The lure of $1 million in prize money is on offer if, or when they successfully escape.
Interior Minister Joachim Brudzinski said the girls were all 15 years old and offered his support to the families in a Twitter post.
The Polish state news agency PAP said it had learned unofficially that the girls died from carbon monoxide asphyxiation.
Footage on private TVN24 showed ambulances and fire engines in front of a detached two-story house with a large “Escape Room” sign in front.
– Podjąłem decyzję, że niedziela będzie dniem żałoby w Koszalinie – podkreślił prezydent miasta. Zaapelował do organizatorów imprez w mieście, żeby odwołali niedzielne wydarzenia. https://t.co/I1syTO7UoA
— tvn24 (@tvn24) January 4, 2019
Mr Brudzinski ordered fire safety controls to be installed at all “Escape Room” locations in Poland.
President Andrzej Duda said on Twitter it was a “crushing tragedy” that five young girls died so early in their lives.
Koszalin Mayor Piotr Jedlinski announced that Sunday would be a day of mourning in the city.
Australian escape rooms are safe, operators claim
The popularity of escape rooms has surged in Australia with about 20 operations in Melbourne alone since first starting in a granny flat in Flemington almost five years ago.
Tom Hudson from The Mystery Rooms – Escape Room Melbourne in Fitzroy told The New Daily he had experienced some “more raw” escape room experiences in eastern Europe.
The ‘escape room’ phenomenon, which is said to have first originated in Budapest about 10 years ago, has been known to offer punters fear-based experiences for a price.
Mr Hudson said he was once physically handcuffed to a pole in an isolated room in Latvia, but the variety of “escape rooms” in Australia, the US and the UK were geared for a more risk averse society.
He said Australian operations complied with regulations for any establishment where people congregate and were fully equipped with safety procedures, emergency exits and fire safety equipment.
“In Australia escape rooms are about solving puzzles and observing cluses, not being physically contained or trapped. They’re more based on mental challenges.”