Sports World Mourns Death of Promising NHL Goalie Matiss Kivlenieks in Freak Fireworks Accident
Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John David said: “We are shocked and saddened by the loss of Matiss Kivlenieks and we extend our deepest sympathies to his mother, Astrida, his family and friends."
Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Matiss Kivlenieks died in a tragic accident during a Fourth of July celebration when he was struck in the chest by a mortar-style firework, officials said.
The 24-year-old Kivlenieks was at the Michigan home of former Red Wings goalie Manny Legace when the freak accident took place, according to The Detroit News.
It was also the same day Legace’s daughter’s wedding took place at the home earlier, the New York Post reported.
Kivlenieks was in the hot tub at the time when the firework tilted slightly and started to head toward him. Kivlenieks, along with several other people tried to avoid the blast, according to Michigan Police Lt. Jason Meier.
When the fire department and EMTs arrived at the scene they transported Kivlenieks to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Meier said, the Associated Press reported.
According to the AP, it was first reported by authorities that Kivlenieks had died of an apparent head injury during a fall. Prior to the autopsy, it was believed that he had slipped and hit his head on concrete while running from a malfunctioning firework, but an autopsy clarified his cause of death.
Meier said “we’re pretty certain this was a “tragic accident,” according to reports.
The Oakland County Medical Examiner’s office reported preliminary autopsy results Monday afternoon, which determined Kivlenieks died from chest trauma.
The shell of a high-powered mortar firework struck him in the left side of his chest, Oakland County medical examiner Ljubisa Dragovic told WJR 760-AM on Tuesday, The Detroit News reported. Kivlenieks suffered major damage to his heart and lungs, Dragovic said, adding that Kivlenieks died seconds after the blast, the outlet reported.
Kivlenieks started in two games for the Blue Jackets this past season. He had recently played for Latvia at the IIHF World Championships. During his career with the NHL, he played in eight total games and was expected to compete for more playing time next season, ESPN reported.
In a statement, Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson called Kivlenieks an “outstanding young man.”
“We are shocked and saddened by the loss of Mattis Kivlenieks and we extend our deepest sympathies to his mother, Astrida, his family and friends during this devastating time,” Davidson said. “Kivi greeted every day and everyone with a smile and the impact he had during his four years with our organization will not be forgotten.”
On Monday night, there was a moment of silence held in Kivlenieks' memory prior to Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens, ESPN reported.
Kivlenieks, who was undrafted, signed with Columbus Blue Jackets as a free agent in 2017. On Jan. 19, 2020, he made his NHL debut at Madison Square Garden, stopping 31 of 32 shots to beat the New York Rangers 2-1, according to ESPN.
Kivlenieks, whose native country is Rigo, Latvia, was spending the summer in the United States. Last week, Kivlenieks and fellow Columbus goaltender Elvis Merzlikins made an appearance at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for a ride-along event, according to media outlets.
On Monday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman issued a statement on the death of Kivlenieks on Twitter.
"On behalf of the NHL family, we extend our deepest sympathies to his family, friends and teammates in both the Blue Jackets organization and his native country of Latvia," Bettman said. "His love for life and passion for the game will be deeply missed by all those who have been fortunate to have him as a teammate and a friend.”
The heartbreaking news drew sympathy from hockey fans all across the globe. One person called Kivlenieks death “unbearable,” and brought him back to when he lost one of his best friends in high school when was only 18.
"I am happy to send the Blue Jackets artwork, advice, or anything to help," said the mourner.
Another fan who was mourning wrote, “Way too young. Let the cannons roar and may he hear GO JACKETS GO! One last time."
":( RIP Matiss way too young with such a bright future," said another.
Novi Police Lt. Jason Meier told The Detroit News that investigators are in the process of interviewing witnesses but said Kivlenieks' death is being investigated as accidental and at this time no charges are under consideration.
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