A hockey player with the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets died Sunday night after being apparently struck in the chest by fireworks, authorities said.
Matiss Kivlenieks, a 24-year-old Latvian goaltender, had been sitting in a hot tub at a private home in Novi, Michigan, when a nearby firework tilted and headed toward him and a group of several other people, Lt. Jason Meier of the Novi Police Department told BuzzFeed News.
The first news reports of the incident claimed that Kivlenieks had slipped and suffered a head injury while trying to get out of the way. However, an autopsy performed Monday found Kivlenieks had actually been struck in the chest by the explosive, Meier confirmed. Meier said authorities had initially been investigating the head injury theory because several eyewitnesses reported seeing Kivlenieks fall from the hot tub and strike the ground.
Emergency services responded to the home shortly after 10 p.m., and Kivlenieks was rushed to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The police department is continuing to investigate the incident as a "tragic accident," Meier said.
The Blue Jackets released a statement Monday confirming the death, calling it "a tragic accident." The team attributed Kivlenieks's death to a head injury due to a fall, but the statement had been released before the autopsy results were made public.
"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," the Blue Jackets president of hockey operations, John Davidson, said in the 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 released a statement, saying Kivlenieks will be "deeply missed."
Several NHL teams also released statements mourning Kivlenieks.
The Blue Jackets in their statement said Kivlenieks had signed with the team in May 2017 and made eight career game appearances after making his league debut in January 2020. He also played for his home country's national team in several international tournaments.