Latvia's Matiss Kivlenieks, a candidate to be the Columbus Blue Jackets' future goaltender, died in Michigan on Sunday night after a Fourth of July fireworks accident. He was 24. A medical examiner said Monday that an autopsy determined that Kivlenieks died of chest trauma from an errant fireworks mortar blast. Authorities earlier had said he died in a fall. Police in Novi said the mortar-style firework tilted slightly and started to fire toward people nearby. Kivlenieks, who was in a hot tub, tried to get clear with several other people, police Lt. Jason Meier said. The fire department and EMTs got to the private home about 10pm Sunday and took him to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Novi Lt. Jason Meier said. The Blue Jackets and Latvian Hockey Federation announced Kivlenieks' death earlier Monday, the AP reports
Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen tweeted: "RIP Matiss, you will be dearly missed." John Davidson, Blue Jackets president of hockey operations, called it a "devastating time" for the team. "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," he said. Kivlenieks most recently represented Latvia this spring at the world hockey championship in which he played four games. He played two games for the Blue Jackets and eight for the American Hockey League's Cleveland Monsters this past season. A native of Riga, Latvia, Kivlenieks signed with the Blue Jackets as a free agent in May 2017 and played eight games for the club. The Latvian Hockey Federation called Kivlenieks' death "a great loss not only for Latvian hockey but for the entire Latvian nation."
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