Blue Jackets Goalie Matiss Kivlenieks' Death Being Investigated as an Accident

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJuly 7, 2021

Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Matiss Kivlenieks, of Latvia, is seen against the Buffalo Sabres during an NHL preseason hockey game in Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. The Blue Jackets won 4-1. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)
AP Photo/Paul Vernon

Police in Michigan are initially investigating the death of Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks as an accident, according to ESPN's Michele Steele:

Michele Steele @MicheleSteele

Novi, Mich. police tell me there are investigating the death of <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BlueJackets?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BlueJackets</a> goalie Matiss Kivlenieks, "solely as an accident" right now - the fireworks were legal &amp; the operator of the fireworks has not been found to be drinking alcohol. No criminal charges have been presented: <a href="https://t.co/UPh4X6C2Y9">pic.twitter.com/UPh4X6C2Y9</a>

Clara Hendrickson and Brian Hedger of the Columbus Dispatch reported Kivlenieks was at the home of Blue Jackets goaltending coach Manny Legace in Novi, Michigan, when he was inadvertently struck in the chest with a fireworks mortar shell.

The 24-year-old was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

"We are still looking at this as a tragic accident," Lt. Jason Meier said to the Dispatch. "Based on the new information, we definitely want to reinterview people and make sure that we have an accurate depiction of what happened."

Kivlenieks and others were at the home to celebrate the Fourth of July and also because Legace had hosted his daughter's wedding.

Authorities in Novi said it appears Kivlenieks was "fleeing a hot tub during a fireworks malfunction" and suffered a percussive internal injury. Medical examiner Dr. Ljubisa Dragovic told the Dispatch the autopsy found Kivlenieks suffered "extensive" external and internal injuries, including to the heart and lungs, after being struck on the left side of his chest.

Calls to 911 were made around 10:13 p.m. ET, and emergency personnel arrived within five minutes.

ESPN's Emily Kaplan reported the fireworks used on the night in question were legal in the state of Michigan, and the person operating the display was in compliance with local laws.

Kivlenieks finished up his second season with the Blue Jackets in 2020-21. He made two appearances and registered 64 saves on 71 shots.