According to a medical examiner in Michigan, goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks of the Columbus Blue Jackets died of chest damage caused by an errant fireworks mortar blast, not a fall, as officials earlier stated.
According to police in Novi, Michigan, the mortar-style firework tipped slightly and began firing toward neighboring residents Sunday night. Kivlenieks, 24, was in a hot tub and attempted to move away from the blast, Lt. Jason Meier said.
According to investigators, the initial autopsy indicated that Kivlenieks died of a percussive injury produced by the fireworks’ tremendous blast, which caused significant damage to his heart and lungs.
“There was some minor injury to his exterior, which would lead us to believe that some portion of the firework made contact with him, but we’re not really sure if it was a direct hit or whether the percussion from the explosion caused his injuries,” Meier said, according to The Detroit News.
Meier said the fire department and EMTs responded to a private residence on Sunday at 10:13 p.m. local time. After receiving a 911 call, responders arrived in 4 minutes and 38 seconds. Kivlenieks was rushed to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead.
Monday afternoon, the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s office released preliminary autopsy results.
According to authorities, prior to the autopsy, Kivlenieks was believed to have slid and struck his head on pavement while fleeing a malfunctioning firework.
Kivlenieks started two games for the Blue Jackets last season. He appeared in eight NHL games and expected to play for more next season.
“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.
Prior to Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens on Monday night, a moment of silence was observed in remembrance of Kivlenieks. After his team’s overtime setback, Lightning coach Jon Cooper addressed Kivlenieks.