A woman told a 911 dispatcher that Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks was ‘getting ready to go into convulsions’ after he was fatally struck in the chest by an errant Fourth of July fireworks mortar blast at a Michigan home.
The call was one of three released Tuesday in connection with Kivlenieks’ death, which police are investigating as an accident. Kivlenieks, 24 of Latvia, was struck about 10pm Sunday at a home in Novi, about 28 miles northwest of Detroit. He was pronounced dead at a hospital. A spokesperson for the Oakland County medical examiner’s office told DailyMail.com that the official cause of death is ‘fireworks mortar blast chest trauma.’
Another female caller said: ‘Hey, we have someone who was hit by a fireworks. Can you come here immediately? He’s breathing. We have a nurse here. He’s breathing, but he’s doing not very good.’
Elvis Merzlikins, like Kivlenieks a Latvian goaltender playing with the Columbus Blue Jackets, paid tribute to his fellow countryman with a photo that appeared to have been taken at Sabrina Legace’s wedding, where guests were asked to wear Hawaiian dress
Legace’s home backs on to a lake, with a fire pit down by the water’s edge
The Columbus Blue Jackets and Latvian Hockey Federation said Monday that 24-year-old goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks (left, right) has died from a head injury. A spokesperson for the Oakland County medical examiner’s office told DailyMail.com that the official cause of death is ‘fireworks mortar blast chest trauma’
The Montreal Canadiens and the Tampa Bay Lightning stand on the ice during a moment of silence for Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Matiss Kivlenieks prior to Game Four of the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Bell Centre on Monday
Police have said the firework tilted slightly and started to fire toward people nearby. Kivlenieks was in a hot tub and tried to get clear with several other people when he was struck.
In one 911 call, a woman tells the operator that Kivlenieks was conscious.
His agent, Jay Grossman, told DailyMail.com that Kivlenieks was still conscious when he was loaded into the ambulance, and even told one teammate not to get in with him.
‘[Kivlenieks] didn’t want him to have to see that,’ Kivlenieks’s agent Jay Grossman told DailyMail.com
The nine-shot firework being used was legal in Michigan and the person operating it at the time Kivlenieks was struck was in compliance with state laws, according to Novi police lieutenant Jason Meier.
‘We understand he was training with the homeowner for the summer and was staying there,’ said Meier, who declined to release the name of the homeowner or identify the person operating the fireworks.
‘When were done, well review with the prosecutors office to cover all the bases,’ he added.
DailyMail.com has learned that the home belongs to Blue Jackets goalie coach Manny Legace, a former NHL netminder who was hosting a Hawaiian-themed wedding for his daughter that day.
Fireworks-related death and injuries are on a rise, according to a report released in June by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. It found 15,600 people were treated in hospital emergency departments for fireworks-related injuries in 2020 compared to about 10,000 in 2019.
In its 2020 Fireworks Annual Report, the agency said its staff received reports of 18 non-occupational deaths last year in the United States. Of that number, 12 involved the misuse of fireworks. Consumer Product Safety Commission staff also has reports of 136 fireworks-related deaths between 2005-2020.
In Michigan, consumer fireworks must meet CPSC standards. Licensed facilities only can sell fireworks to people 18 and older. Low impact fireworks like sparklers, toy snakes, snaps, and poppers are also legal for sale and use.
State law stipulates that consumer-grade fireworks only can be ignited from personal property. It’s also illegal to discharge fireworks when intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.
Kivlenieks was considered a potential future starter in net for the Blue Jackets. Most recently, he represented Latvia this spring at the world hockey championship in which he played four games. Prior to that, Kivlenieks played two games for the Blue Jackets and eight for the American Hockey League’s Cleveland Monsters this past season.
‘He was a really humble, thoughtful, intelligent radiant young man,’ Grossman said of his client. ‘Not to generalize, but for whatever reasons, goalies have always gotten a wrap for being more insightful, sometime deeper thinkers. And he was clearly like that, but in his own way.
‘Really observant. He took everything in.’