The teenagers, identified by officials as Julia, Karolina, Amelia, Wiktoria and Malgorzata, all 15 years old, had gone to the two-story site to celebrate a birthday. However, things took a turn for the worse on Friday at roughly 5 p.m. local time after a fire broke out. The cause was later determined to be a leak in a gas cylinder.
The sole survivor of the blaze, a 25-year-old employee who was the "gamemaster," explained to investigators that he was in another part of the building when he initially smelled gas, and when he attempted to turn off the tank, flames quickly erupted.
"He realized after a moment of terror that he would not be able to get to the door to unlock the exit in the room where the girls were playing," Ryszard Gasiorowski, spokesperson for the Koszalin district prosecutor, told reporters. "The fire had already cut him off."
Autopsies later showed that all five girls died of carbon monoxide inhalation. The gamemaster was hospitalized for first and second degree burns.
Four days after the fire, a preliminary investigation revealed that officials found more than 1,100 violations at the building, most of which were related to the venue's emergency plans and lack of an evacuation route. According to the New York Times, the concrete building "had never even been inspected to see whether it met the basic safety code."
As such, the venue's operator, identified only as Milosz S., was arrested this week and charged with intentionally creating a fire danger and unintentionally causing the deaths of the five girls, Gasiorowski told reporters, noting that the venue had a faulty heating system.
Prosecutors are currently requesting that Milosz be held for three months while the case proceeds. If convicted, he could face up to eight years in prison.
According to Polish media outlets, the building, which contains seven rooms, was converted from a family home to various themed escape room that were dubbed "Crime," "Darkness," Workshop" and "Party." Per the Times, only four of the seven rooms were transformed serve as escape rooms.
Following the fire, Joachim Brudziński, Poland's minister of the interior, called for all of the country's escape room attraction sites to be inspected. After inspecting dozens of sites, investigators deemed more than 100 unsafe. Thirteen venues were closed down on the spot.
Authorities are presently calling on residents to report potential violations they encounter any at similar sites to firefighters and police.
Koszalin Mayor Piotr Jedlinski told Polish news station TVN24 that care is being offered to the affected families. The burials for all five girls are set to take place on Thursday.