The findings of a preliminary autopsy on former Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks indicated Monday that he died Sunday of chest trauma from an errant fireworks blast. Kivlenieks was 24.
Earlier on Monday, the Blue Jackets announced Kivlenieks' death in a "tragic accident."
The Oakland County (Michigan) Medical Examiner’s office listed the official cause of death in the preliminary autopsy as "fireworks mortar blast, chest trauma."
Police in Novi, Michigan, said a mortar-style firework tilted slightly and started to fire toward people nearby Sunday night. Kivlenieks was in a hot tub and tried to get clear with several other people, police Lt. Jason Meier said. Originally police said the young Latvian slipped and hit his head on concrete, with the team saying Kivlenieks' death resulting from an apparent head injury in a fall.
The fire department and EMTs got to the private home shortly after 10 p.m. and took him to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Meier said..
"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."
Kivlenieks joined the Blue Jackets organization in May 2017 after he signed as a free agent. In his eight career games with Columbus, he went 2-2-2 with a 3.09 goals-against average and a .899 save percentage.
Kivlenieks also played for the club's American Hockey League affiliate, the Cleveland Monsters. While there, he went 33-35-9, with a 3.31 GAA and .896 SV% in 85 career games. He had three shutuots.
Kivlenieks also suited up for his native Latvia in several international tournaments.
Contributing: The Associated Press