NHL goalie Matiss Kivlenieks dies after “tragic accident” with fireworks
Michigan police have confirmed that the Latvian died of trauma to the chest after the incident at a Fourth of July gathering on Sunday evening.
National Hockey League team Columbus Blue Jacket have confirmed that their goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks has died of "fireworks mortar blast, chest trauma" after an incident with an errant firework on the Fourth of July.
The tragic accident came about when fireworks at a private gathering tilted and began firing towards the crowd. Kivlenieks was with others in a hot tub when the incident happened and it was initially thought that the 24-year-old had slipped and hit his head while attempting to flee. However an autopsy has since confirmed that a firework to his torso was the actual cause of death.
It’s with a very heavy heart that we share the news that goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks passed away last night at the age of 24.— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) July 5, 2021
We are heartbroken. Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers.
Rest in peace, Kivi.https://t.co/o2EDRgxQ5A pic.twitter.com/FCBr0ZaH25
Police to continue interviewing witnesses but describe it as “a tragic accident”
The incident took place on Sunday evening with the fire department and medical assistance getting to the location at around 10pm. It was only after the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s office returned their preliminary autopsy results on Monday afternoon that chest trauma was identified as the cause of death.
Police Lieutenant Jason Meier clarified the official position shortly after, saying: “At the moment, we’re pretty certain this was a tragic accident.”
However the autopsy findings have prompted police to re-interview some witnesses to establish exactly what took place. Meier did reveal that officers who attended the scene described it as “a large gathering” and that they will attempt to speak to as many people who were present as possible.
Tributes pour in for an “outstanding young man”
In the hours after his tragic death was announced teammates, coaches and friends sent messages of appreciation from both sides of the Atlantic. The 24-year-old Latvian moved to the United States in 2012 to pursue his NHL ambitions and has been signed to the Jackets since 2017.
The first to announce his death were his NHL team and the Latvian Hockey Federation. His general manager in Columbus, Jarmo Kekalainen, tweeted in response to the news: “Life is so precious and can be so fragile. Hug your loved ones today. RIP Matiss, you will be dearly missed.”
NHL Commission Gary Bettman added his own remarks on behalf of the league, praising Kivlenieks’ “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.”
Kivlenieks’ national team added to the tributes by describing his premature death as “a great loss not only for Latvian hockey but for the entire Latvian nation.”
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