A medical examiner in Michigan determined, after the autopsy, that the Columbus Blue Jackets janitor, Matiss Kivlenieks, died of trauma to the chest from a fireworks explosion and not from a fall, as previously reported by authorities.
Police in Novi, Michigan, said the fireworks tilted slightly and began shooting toward nearby people Sunday night. Kivlenieks, 24, was in a hot tub and tried to escape along with other people, Police Lt. Jason Meier said.
Meier said the fire department and EMTs arrived at a private home at 10:13 p.m. local time on Sunday.
The emergency response took 4:38 minutes to arrive after receiving a 911 call. Kivlenieks was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office reported preliminary autopsy results Monday afternoon.
Before the autopsy, police said Kivlenieks was believed to have slipped and hit his head on concrete while fleeing the fireworks.
“For now we are only sure it was a tragic accident,” Meier said.
Kivlenieks started two games with the Blue Jackets last season and had recently played for Latvia at the IIHF World Championship. He played in eight total games in his NHL career and was expected to fight for more activity next season.
“We are shocked and saddened by the loss of Matiss Kivlenieks, and extend our condolences to his mother, Astrida, family and friends during this devastating time,” Blue Jackets President of Operations John Davidson said in a statement. . “Kivi was an outstanding young man who greeted everyone with a smile every day and the appreciation he had during his four years with our organization will not be forgotten,” he said.
“One thing I loved and appreciated about him was that he had a big smile and was always in a good mood,” former Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno told ESPN’s Emily Kaplan in a text message. “I know it’s a cliché, but that’s exactly the type of man he was. He enjoyed his life as a 24-year-old living a dream and you could tell he didn’t waste a day, which makes this tragedy even more. difficult to cope with. We are praying for his family and everyone who knew him. It was a difficult day for everyone in the organization. “
A moment of silence was observed in Kivlenieks memory before Game 4 Stanley Cup between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night. Hours before, the commissioner of the NHLGary Bettman issued a statement regarding Kivlenieks’ death.
“On behalf of the NHL family, we extend our condolences to his family, friends and teammates both in the Blue Jackets organization and in his native Latvia,” said Bettman. “His love of life and his passion for the game will be missed by all those who have been lucky enough to have him as a partner and friend.”
Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen shared his condolences on Twitter.
Kivlenieks, who was not drafted, signed with Columbus as a free agent in 2017. He made his NHL debut at Madison Square Garden on January 19, 2020, stopping 31 of 32 shots to beat the New 2-1. York Rangers.
Last week, Kivlenieks and fellow Columbus goalie Elvis Merzlikins were at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for an event. Kivlenieks spent the summer in the United States.
Information from ESPN’s Emily Kaplan and The Associated Press was used in this report.