Police in Novi, Michigan, said Monday that 24-year-old Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks died after hitting his head following a Fourth of July fireworks accident.
Lt. Jason Meier of the Novi Police Department said a mortar-style firework tilted slightly and started to fire toward people nearby. Kivlenieks was in a hot tub and fled along with several other people, but he slipped and hit his head on concrete, Meier said.
The fire department and EMTs got to the private home about 10:13 on Sunday night and took him to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Meier said. An autopsy is scheduled for Monday.
“At the moment, we’re pretty certain this was a tragic accident,” Meier said.
The Blue Jackets and Latvian Hockey Federation announced Kivlenieks’ death earlier Monday, with the NHL club saying it resulted from an apparent head injury in a fall. The team’s statement made no mention of fireworks.
Multiple messages left with team and national federation personnel were not immediately returned.
Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen tweeted: “Life is so precious and can be so fragile. Hug your loved ones today. RIP Matiss, you will be dearly missed.”
“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,” Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson said. “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.”
Bettman said 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 most recently represented Latvia this spring at the world hockey championship in which he played four games. He played two games for the Blue Jackets and eight for the American Hockey League’s Cleveland Monsters this past season.
A native of Riga, Latvia, Kivlenieks signed with the Blue Jackets as a free agent in May 2017 and played eight teams for the club. The Latvian Hockey Federation called Kivlenieks’ death “a great loss not only for Latvian hockey but for the entire Latvian nation.”
Associated Press writer Kathleen Foody contributed.