Former Blue Jackets Goalie Matiss Kivlenieks' Death Ruled Accidental By Prosecutor

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIDecember 1, 2021

Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks (80) has the puck in his hand as he makes a save during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Rangers Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, in New York. The Blue Jackets defeated the Rangers 2-1. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Oakland County (Michigan) prosecutor Karen McDonald's office has ruled that Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks' death on July 4 was accidental and said that there will be no criminal charges filed, per Brian Hedger of the Columbus Dispatch.

A Michigan medical examiner ruled on July 5 that Kivlenieks died of chest trauma from "an errant fireworks mortar blast," per ESPN News Services.

Per Hedger, Kivlenieks attended a post-wedding celebration at the Novi, Michigan home of Columbus goaltenders coach Manny Legace, whose daughter had just been married:

"Kivlenieks, 24, died after being struck in the chest by a three-inch mortar shell fired from a tube that tipped toward a hot tub in which he was seated. 
"The fireworks device was a 'cake style' rack of nine mortar shells in tubes arranged in three rows of three."

The autopsy found that Kivlenieks died after suffering fatal damage to his heart and lungs.

Novi police initially conducted an investigation and ruled Kivlenieks’ death a "tragic accident," per Hedger. The department did not recommend criminal charges.

The report was sent to McDonald's office, which investigated the incident for nearly five months. Following the office's ruling, the case is now closed.

Kivlenieks appeared in eight games across two seasons with the Blue Jackets. The Latvian went undrafted, but he signed a three-year deal with Columbus in 2017 and played for the club's AHL affiliate, the Cleveland Monsters, before making his NHL debut during the 2019-20 campaign.