Blue Jackets' Matiss Kivlenieks died of chest trauma from fireworks, autopsy reveals

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Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks died on Sunday night, and according to a medical examiner, the cause of his death was chest trauma from a mortar-style firework blast, not from a fall, which is what police initially reported.

The Oakland County Medical Examiner’s office reported the preliminary autopsy results Monday afternoon.

Lt. Jason Meier of the Novi Police Department said Kivlenieks was in a hot tub when the mortar-style firework tilted slightly and started to go off toward people nearby. Police thought that Kivlenieks hit his head on concrete while running away from the fireworks.

“At the moment, we’re pretty certain this was a tragic accident,” Meier said in a statement.

EMTs and the fire department arrived at the scene at 10:13 p.m. local time on Sunday. They rushed Kivlenieks to a local hospital, but he was pronounced dead shortly after, Meier stated.

Kivlenieks’ death was announced by the Blue Jackets and Latvian Hockey Federation early Monday.

“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 in a statement. “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.”

During the world hockey championship this spring, Kivlenieks played four games for Latvia. This past NHL season, he played in two games for the Blue Jackets and eight for the American Hockey League’s Cleveland Monsters.

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.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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