How did Matiss Kivlenieks die? Columbus Blue Jackets goalie, 24, dies in freak July 4 accident

Matiss Kivlenieks died as the result of a 'tragic accident,' suffering a fatal head injury and chest trauma

                            How did Matiss Kivlenieks die? Columbus Blue Jackets goalie, 24, dies in freak July 4 accident
Matiss Kivlenieks died in a Fourth of July fireworks accident (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

Update: Police originally said the Matiss Kivlenieks died from a head injury sustained during a fall, but according to Inspector Mitch Brown of the Oakland County Medical Examiner's Office, it was due to the fireworks mortar blast and chest trauma. The death was ruled accidental after a full autopsy was conducted by the Oakland County Chief Medical Examiner Dr Ljubisa Dragovic, Brown said.

Columbus Blue Jackets goalie and Latvian national, Matiss Kivlenieks died Sunday, July 4 in a tragic accident. He was 24. The team said that Kivlenieks died as the result of a 'tragic accident,' suffering an apparent head injury in a fall.

Police in Novi, Michigan said that Kivlenieks succumbed to a head injury following a Fourth of July fireworks accident. According to Lt Jason Meier of the Novi Police Department, during the July 4 celebration, a mortar-style firework tilted slightly and started to fire toward people. Kivlenieks was in a hot tub and tried to flee, but he slipped and hit his head on concrete. Meier further said that the fire department and EMTs got to his home about 10:13 on Sunday night, July 4, and rushed him to a local hospital, where he was declared dead.


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Matiss Kivlenieks (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Jackets issued a statement on Twitter that said, "It’s with a very heavy heart that we share the news that goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks passed away last night at the age of 24. We are heartbroken. Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers. Rest in peace, Kivi." The Jackets' president of hockey operations, John Davidson, said in a statement, "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." Davidson added, "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." Columbus Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno told ESPN, "One thing I loved and appreciated about him was he had a great smile and always was in a good mood." He added, "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. Praying for his family and all of us who knew him. Hard day for a lot of people in that organization."



National Hockey League (NHL) commissioner Gary Bettman also issued a statement about Kivlenieks' untimely death that said, "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. 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."

Matiss Kivlenieks (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)


Kivlenieks had signed with Columbus Blue Jackets as a free agent in May 2017, started in two games for the team last season and had recently played for Latvia at the IIHF World Championships. He played a total of eight games in his NHL career. Kivlenieks made his NHL debut at Madison Square Garden on January 19, 2020. He represented Latvia at several international tournaments including the 2021 IIHF World Championships. Kivlenieks and fellow Columbus goaltender Elvis Merzlikins made an appearance at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for a ride-along event, last week only. According to reports, Kivlenieks was spending the summer in the United States and was there at the time of his death.