Medical examiner: Blue Jackets goalie died from chest trauma caused by fireworks mortar blast

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Kivlenieks passed away Sunday night, according to a release from the Columbus Blue Jackets. He was just 24.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Matiss Kivlenieks died Sunday following an injury he sustained in what team officials called a “tragic accident.” He was just 24. 

A spokesperson with the Blue Jackets confirmed on Tuesday the incident happened at the home of the team’s goaltending coach Manny Legace.

Police in Novi, Michigan — where the incident took place — first reported Kivlenieks was in a hot tub at a private residence when a mortar-style firework tilted and fired at people nearby. 

Police said Kivlenieks was fleeing the hot tub when he slipped and fell, hitting his head on the concrete.  

According to a release from CBJ, medical personnel responded immediately, but Kivlenieks died not long after. 

A medical examiner later confirmed that Kivlenieks ultimately died from chest trauma caused by the mortar blast. 

On Tuesday, police in Novi said they are re-interviewing witnesses and the investigation is expected to take several more days.

In a statement released Monday, Columbus Blue Jackets President of Hockey Operations John Davidson described Kivlenieks in part as an “outstanding young man who greeted every day and everyone with a smile.” 

You can read his full statement below: 

“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. 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.”

Originally from Latvia, Kivlenieks signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets in May of 2017. 

Kivlenieks made his NHL debut in January of 2020 when he stopped 31 of 32 shots against the New York Rangers, leading the Blue Jackets to a 2-1 victory. 

Over the span of four years, Kivlenieks posted a 33-35-9 mark with a 3.31 goals against average and a .896 save percentage in 85 career games with the Cleveland Monsters. 

He went on to represent Latvia during several international tournaments this year. 

National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman released the following statement on Monday in response to Kivlenieks’ death:  

The National Hockey League was saddened to learn of the sudden and tragic passing of goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks. On behalf of the NHL family, we extend our deepest sympathies to his family, friends and teammates in both the Blue Jackets organization and his native country of Latvia. 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.” 

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