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COLUMBUS, OH – MAY 08: Matiss Kivlenieks #80 of the Columbus Blue Jackets looks on during the game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Detroit Red Wings at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio on May 8, 2021. (Photo : Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
The entire hockey world is in mourning after the tragic death of Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks in a fireworks accident on Sunday night. The 24-year-old celebrated the Fourth of July festivities with friends in Michigan when a mortar-style firework tilted slightly and started to go toward their direction.
Kivlenieks, who was in a hot tub at that time, tried to run for cover but went down injured. Lt. Jason Meier said that EMTs and the fire department arrived at the said private home at 10:13 p.m. local time on Sunday, four minutes and 38 seconds after receiving a 911 call. Kivlenieks was then taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Autopsy clears up Kivlenieks’ cause of death
Authorities initially said that the Latvian goalie was believed to have slipped and hit his head on concrete while running away from the malfunctioning firework. That was not the case, though, as an autopsy showed Kivlenieks dying of chest trauma from an errant fireworks mortar blast and not from a fall.
According to police, Kivlenieks’ death was caused by the powerful blast from the fireworks, triggering a percussive injury that gravely damaged his heart and lungs. “There was some minor injury to his exterior, which would lead us to believe that some portion of the firework made contact with him, but we’re not really sure if it was a direct hit or whether the percussion from the explosion caused his injuries,” Meier said in an interview with The Detroit News.
According to the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office, the manner of Kivlenieks’ death was ruled accidental. The investigation is still ongoing, however.
It was a shocking end to the life of Kivlenieks, whose career in the NHL was starting to blossom. He signed with the Blue Jackets as a free agent in May 2017 after going undrafted and made his league debut at Madison Square Garden on January 19, 2020, making 31 saves in a 2-1 victory against the New York Rangers. Kivlenieks, who had recently played for Latvia at the IIHF World Championships, was expected to compete for more playing time next season at Columbus.
The hockey community grieves with Kivlenieks’ sudden passing
Blue Jackets president of hockey operations, John Davidson, offered his condolences to Kivlenieks’ family and friends in a statement.
“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 during this devastating time. Kivi was an outstanding young man who greeted every day and everyone with a smile and the impact he had during his four years with our organization will not be forgotten.”
Kivlenieks’ life was also remembered on the NHL’s biggest stage as a moment of silence was held in his memory before the start of Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Montreal Canadiens and the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday.
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