Man charged in Poland 'escape room' blaze that killed five

People lay flowers and candles at the site of the 'Escape Room' fire tragedy in Koszalin, Poland, on Jan 6, 2019.
People lay flowers and candles at the site of the 'Escape Room' fire tragedy in Koszalin, Poland, on Jan 6, 2019. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WARSAW (AFP) - Polish prosecutors probing the deaths of five teenage girls in an "escape room" said on Sunday (Jan 6) that they had charged an owner of the facility with deliberately creating a fire hazard that led to the blaze.

The five girls, all aged 15 according to Polish media, died and one man was seriously injured last Friday (Jan 4) when a fire broke out in an escape room where they were celebrating a birthday in the northern Polish city of Koszalin.

Escape rooms, popular around the world, offer a live-action experience in which players are locked in a room and given one hour to solve a series of clues and riddles to get out.

The 28-year-old suspect was charged with "deliberately creating the danger of a fire in the escape room and with unintentionally causing the death of people in a fire", said Mr Ryszard Gasiorowski, a spokesman for Koszalin district prosecutor, quoted by the Polish PAP news agency.

Identifying the suspect only as Milosz S. for legal reasons, Mr Gasiorowski said he had neglected to ensure escape routes that could have allowed the girls to flee when the blaze broke out.

Lawyers for the defendant told Polish media that he was "devastated" by the deaths and had extended condolences to the girls' families, but that he had also denied any negligence or wrongdoing.

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki vowed earlier on Sunday to close escape rooms that fail to meet safety standards after firefighters inspected nearly 200 such facilities across Poland over the weekend.

National fire commander Leszek Suski said that more than 100 were found to be unsafe and 13 facilities were immediately shut down.

Mr Morawiecki also announced a review of more than 1,000 escape rooms or related facilities in Poland to determine whether new regulations are needed.