Three women who called 911 shortly after 10 p.m. Sunday told dispatchers that Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Matiss Kivlenieks was conscious and breathing but “not doing very well” after a fireworks accident at Novi holiday party that killed the 24-year-old goalie, according to audio released Tuesday.
There was a heightened tone of panic from the second caller, who told dispatchers, “We have someone who’s hit by a firework. Can you come here immediately?,” according to the audio released by the Novi Police Department to The Detroit News.
Paramedics arrived at the Novi home of former Red Wings goalie Manny Legace — now Columbus’ goal-tending coach — within five minutes of the first call, which came at 10:12 p.m. The second call came 41 seconds later, and the third 58 seconds after that. The second woman who called said there was a nurse at the party.
The third said Kivlenieks was “getting ready to go into convulsions.”
Kivlenieks was transported to Ascension Providence Hospital in Novi, where he was pronounced dead.
Oakland County medical’s examiner Dr. Ljubisa Dragovic said Tuesday that Kivlenieks died shortly after a shell from the high-powered fireworks struck him on the left side of his chest.
The autopsy, conducted Monday, determined the official cause of death as trauma to the chest. Kivlenieks suffered “devastating” injuries to the heart and lungs, Dragovic said.
“He sustained chest trauma as a result of the impact of this projectile,” Dragovic said.
“I think the message out there should be,” he added, “that any handling of fireworks, being and containing explosives as they do, is potentially dangerous.”
In 2020, there were 18 reported deaths from fireworks in the United States, and more than 15,000 injuries that required trips to the emergency rooms. Those numbers were up from 2019, possibly because of the pandemic as many municipalities canceled their public fireworks shows.
Novi police said the party was a “large gathering,” and that nobody else was injured.
Kivlenieks was in the hot tub, located in Legace’s backyard between his house and Meadowbrook Lake, when the accident happened. Kivlenieks tried to get out of the hot tub, but slipped and fell, leading police to initially believe he died of a head injury. Dragovic said Tuesday there was no indication of any head trauma.
Novi Police Lt. Jason Meier said the investigation remains ongoing, and that Kivlenieks was believed to be about 10 feet from the fireworks, but that remains “speculation.”
The early police investigation found that the fireworks were being lit from near the lake. The hot tub is slightly closer to the lake than the back side of the house. Meier said the person lighting the fireworks wasn’t consuming alcohol, and that no charges are currently under consideration. The final investigation will be sent to the prosecutor’s office.
Kivlenieks, a native of Latvia, played eight games for the Blue Jackets, including two this past season against the Red Wings. He won his last NHL game, against Detroit, on May 8. He signed with Columbus in 2017.
The tragedy has rocked the hockey world, with condolences pouring in from all corners. There was a moment of silence before Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Monday night.
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