Columbus Blue Jackets Goalie Dies in Fireworks-Related Accident

Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Matiss Kivlenieks died on Sunday after hitting his head on concrete in a fireworks-related accident in Michigan, police said, per ESPN. He was 24 years old. Lt. Jason Meier of the Novi Police Department in Novi, Michigan, said a mortar-style firework tilted slightly, which caused a fire. The first responders quickly arrived on the scene after a 911 call, and Kivlenieks was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

"There appears to have been a fireworks malfunction, which caused a group of people to flee from the hot tub, including the deceased, who slipped and hit his head on the concrete," Meier said. An autopsy is scheduled for Monday, but Meier said that this is likely a "slip and fall" accident.

"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."

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman also reacted to the news. "On behalf of the NHL family, we extend our deepest sympathies to his family, friends and teammates in both the Blue Jackets organization and his native country of Latvia," Bettman said in the statement. "His 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 signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Blue Jackets in 2017 despite not being drafted. He started in two games for the Blue Jackets this past season and recently played for Latvia in the IIHF World Championships. Kivlenieks played in six games in the 2019-20 season after spending time in the AHL and ECHL.

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"One thing I loved and appreciated about him was he had a great smile and always was in a good mood," former Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno told ESPN's Emily Kaplan in a text message. "I know it's cliché, but that's exactly the kind of guy he was. Just enjoying his life as a 24-year-old living out his dream and you could tell he didn't take one day for granted, which makes this tragedy even more hard to bear."