Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks died in a "tragic accident" on Sunday after sustaining injuries from July 4 fireworks while partying at the Detroit-area home of his coach Manny Legace. Kivlenieks, 24, died of chest trauma after he was struck by an errant fireworks mortar blast.
It was previously reported that Kivlenieks died from a bad fall but autopsy reports show it was from chest trauma from a fireworks mortar blast. On Monday night, a minute's silence was held before the Stanley Cup game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens.
Novi Police said that the incident happened at the Detroit home of Legace on the same day he hosted a Hawaiian-themed wedding for his daughter. Kivlenieks, originally from Latvia, was in a hot tub and tried to get clear along with several others after the firework tilted and shot in their direction, said Lieutenant Jason Meier. However, it hit him in the chest.
It was initially thought that Kivlenieks had slipped and hit his head while trying to escape from the fireworks, but preliminary results of a post-mortem on Monday said a chest injury was to blame. "At the moment, we're pretty certain this was a tragic accident," Meier said.
EMTs arrived at the home just after 10 pm and transported Kivlenieks to the hospital immediately where he was pronounced dead. Meier also said that there was a "large gathering" at the property and that officers were trying to interview as many people as possible.
Columbus Blue Jackets manager Jarmo Kekalainen tweeted: "Life is so precious and can be so fragile. Hug your loved ones today. RIP Matiss, you will be dearly missed."
Death Shocks Everyone
The rising hockey star's death has left the entire fraternity shocked and saddened. "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," Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson said in a statement.
"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," the statement further read.
Kivlenieks was among the many guests invited by his coach Legace to attend his daughter Sabrina's wedding on Sunday, which coincided with July 4 Independence Day celebrations.
Sabrina, a nurse in Grand Rapids, got married earlier in the day, to Nick Howell, a real estate agent. Kivlenieks was present at the wedding. The ceremony at Manny Legace's home was then followed by "a night of relaxation and uninhibited revelry," with guests in Hawaiian dress, according to the wedding website.
Legace's home is 30 miles northwest of downtown Detroit and the party was midway when many of the gets were in the hot tub when tragedy struck.
According to police, the goalie was about 10 feet away from that mortar at the time. He suffered what is called a percussion injury or blast injury. It was a direct shot right to his chest that did massive internal damage to the organs.
Kivlenieks made his NHL debut against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on January 19, 2020. He turned aside 31 of the 32 shots he faced to lift Columbus to a 2-1 victory. Prior to that, he had signed with the Blue Jackets as a free agent in 2017. Kivlenieks, the 2017 USHL Player of the Year, had a 2-2-2 record in his NHL career.