Blue Jackets: Goalie Matiss Kivlenieks, 24, dies after fall in fireworks accident

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FILE – Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks (80) is shown during the second period of an NHL hockey game in New York, in this Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, file photo. The Columbus Blue Jackets and Latvian Hockey Federation said Monday, July 5, 2021, that 24-year-old goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks has died. The team said in a statement Kivlenieks died from an apparent head injury in a fall after medical personnel arrived. It was not immediately clear what caused the fall or where he was at the time of the incident, and multiple messages were left with team and national federation personnel that were not immediately returned.(AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)

Latvia’s Matiss Kivlenieks, a candidate to be the Columbus Blue Jackets’ future goaltender, died in Michigan on Sunday night after fleeing a hot tub and hitting his head following a Fourth of July fireworks accident. He was 24.

Kivlenieks was in a hot tub and fled with several other people, but he slipped and hit his head on concrete, police in Novi, Michigan, told The Associated Press on Monday.

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, Novi Lt. Jason 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.

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.”

Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson called it a “devastating time” for the team,

“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,” he said.

“What a tragic loss for all of us who knew him and I am thinking and praying for his family,” former Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno tweeted. “Heaven gained a darn good goalie and better person… Just, way too soon.”

NHL Commissioner Gary 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.”

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