Hockey ace dies aged 24 getting out of hot tub after ‘fireworks malfunction’

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A hockey star has died at the age of 24 after a horror accident involving a firework.

Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks had fallen when he got out of a hot tub following a "fireworks malfunction" at a Fourth of July celebration in Novi, Michigan.

A police spokesperson had said the incident was being treated "as an accidental fall," but the Associated Press has since reported an autopsy revealed Kivlenieks died of chest trauma 'from an errant firework'.

According to initial reports, partygoers panicked after a 'mortar style' firework tilted and began to shoot in the direction of those in attendance, causing Kivlenieks to slip when he attempted to get out of the hot tub.

Detroit news outlets said Kivlenieks was pronounced dead upon arrival at a Michigan hospital.

Novi Police Department Lieutenant, Jason Meier, added: "It's still an active investigation, but we're treating it as a tragic accident."

Riga-born Kivlenieks had represented Latvia at this year's IIHF World Championship, where the host country won two of their seven group games, beating Italy and upsetting the eventual champions, Canada.

The Blue Jackets' general manager, Jarmo Kekalainen, tweeted: "Life is so precious and can be so fragile. Hug your loved ones today. RIP Matiss, you will be dearly missed."

A statement from the franchise's president of hockey operations, John Davidson, read: "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.

"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 organisation will not be forgotten."

Kivlenieks was a free agent when he joined Columbus in 2017, going on to make eight appearances for the National Hockey League outfit in total, partly as a result of injuries.

The goaltender made his NHL debut in a 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden in January 2020.

He spent the majority of his four years with the franchise with their American Hockey League affiliate, the Cleveland Monsters, for whom he registered 85 appearances.

News of Kivlenieks' death came on the eve of Game 4 of this year's Stanley Cup series between the Montreal Canadiens and the Tampa Bay Lightning, with the latter leading 3-0.

Former Blue Jackets captain David Savard addressed the tragedy (in French) and said Kivlenieks had a bright future in store: “That was a brutal wakeup this morning. That was a good kid with a lot of talent who was going to be a part of the team next year or in the future. That’s extremely sad.”

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