Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks dies in fireworks accident

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Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks gets his stick from defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov in the second period vs. the Detroit Red Wings at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, May 8, 2021.
Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks gets his stick from defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov in the second period vs. the Detroit Red Wings at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, May 8, 2021.

Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks died Sunday night in a fireworks incident at a home in Novi.

Novi Police Lt. Jason Meier said paramedics were sent to the home at 10:13 p.m. and upon arrival, found Kivlenieks unresponsive. He was transported to Ascension Providence Hospital in Novi where he was pronounced dead, Meier said.

Meier said that the cause of death was a percussive injury to his internal organs as a result of a fireworks explosion, according to an autopsy performed Monday.

"There appears to be some fireworks that accidentally went off and launched in the direction of Mr. Kivlenieks and others who were seated in the hot tub,” he said.

An initial investigation found that Kivlenieks fled a hot tub, slipped, fell and struck his head. But the autopsy did not reveal any trauma to Kivlenieks' head, Meier said.

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There had been a large gathering at the home. Meier would not confirm the address of the private residence.

Acccording to The Columbus Dispatch, Kivlenieks had traveled to Novi to visit Manny Legace, the former Red Wings goalie and current goaltender coach for the Blue Jackets.

The Free Press left a message for Legace on Monday afternoon, but there was no immediate response.

A statement from the Blue Jackets did not include the cause of death or the circumstances leading up to it, but called it a "tragic accident."

Kivlenieks, a 24-year-old native of Latvia, "suffered an apparent head injury in a fall," the statement reads.

"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," said Blue Jackets President of Hockey Operations John Davidson.

The National Hockey League extended sympathies to Kivlenieks' family, friends and teammates.

"His 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," a statement reads.

At the age of 20, Kivlenieks signed a three-year contract with the Blue Jackets in 2017 after he was named USHL's Player of the Year and Goaltender of the Year following a strong season with the Sioux City Musketeers.

Ahead of the 4th of July weekend, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission urged those celebrating to practice fireworks safety. The commission found a 50% increase in deaths and injuries from fireworks-related incidents in 2020 compared with the previous year. The COVID-19 pandemic led many cities to cancel their fireworks shows, leading to an uptick in fireworks sales as Americans put on their own displays.

Clara Hendrickson fact-checks Michigan issues and politics as a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project. Make a tax-deductible contribution to support her work at bit.ly/freepRFA. Contact her at chendrickson@freepress.com or 313-296-5743. Follow her on Twitter @clarajanehen.

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Blue Jackets' Matiss Kivlenieks dies following fireworks accident