According to the Associated Press, three calls were made to 911 in connection with the death of Kivlenieks, which is being investigated as an accident.
“Hey, we have someone who got hit by fireworks,” a caller told a 911 dispatcher after Kivlenieks was hit around 10 p.m. at a backyard party in Novi, Michigan. “Can you come here immediately?” He breathes. We have a nurse here. He’s breathing, but he’s not doing very well. “
Another caller said the 24-year-old goaltender was “preparing to have a seizure” after being hit.
Kivlenieks was pronounced dead in a hospital. An autopsy revealed on Monday that he had died of chest trauma, with extensive damage to his heart and lungs.
Kivlenieks and his teammate Elvis Merzlikins traveled to Novi, where Legace lives, to celebrate July 4, as well as Legace’s daughter’s wedding over the holiday weekend, sources told ESPN.
Legace, 48, has worked with the Blue Jackets since 2018 and enjoyed an 11-year NHL career, including a Stanley Cup title with the Red Wings in 2002.
Lieutenant Jason Meier of the Novi Police Department told ESPN on Monday that Kivlenieks was in a hot tub and tried to avoid the fireworks, along with several others. Meier added that all signs showed it was a “tragic accident.”
The nine-shot fireworks used were legal in Michigan, and the person using it at the time Kivlenieks was struck was in compliance with state laws and was reportedly “training with the owner for the purpose. ‘been and stayed there,’ Meier said.
In Michigan, consumer fireworks must meet CPSC standards. Licensed facilities may only sell fireworks to persons 18 years of age and over. Low impact fireworks like sparklers, toy snakes, snaps, and poppers are also legal for sale and use. State law states that consumer fireworks can only be ignited from personal property. It is also illegal to shoot fireworks while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.
Kivlenieks was close to Merzlikins, a Latvian compatriot, and his wife, Aleksandra. Kivlenieks lived with the couple while they stayed in the United States during the summer.
Support poured in from all over the hockey world for Kivlenieks and the Blue Jackets organization on Monday. Fans brought homemade signs, flowers, sticks and balloons to the front door of the Nationwide Arena for a makeshift memorial. A minute of silence was observed in memory of Kivlenieks before Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night at the Bell Center. Lightning coach Jon Cooper commented on Kivlenieks after his side lost in overtime.
“I just want to offer our sincere condolences to the Kivlenieks family,” Cooper said. “It’s a terrible tragedy for anyone, any family to go through this. But someone in the NHL family, as close as we are all like the teams fighting out there, from all of the Lightning, our condolences. “
Kivlenieks, who was not drafted, signed with Columbus as a free agent in 2017. He made his NHL debut at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 19, 2020, stopping 31 of 32 shots to beat the Rangers of New York 2-1.
The goalkeeper started in two games last season and was expected to be part of the Blue Jackets’ plans for the 2021-22 season. He recently appeared for Latvia at the World Championships, which were hosted by Latvia.
In a statement, Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson called Kivlenieks “an exceptional young man who greeted everyone every day with a smile.”
“The impact he had during his four years with our organization will not be forgotten,” Davidson said.
This sentiment was echoed by former Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno.
“One thing I liked and appreciated about him was that he had a big smile on his face and was always in a good mood,” Foligno told ESPN. “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 his dream, and you could tell he didn’t take a day for granted, which made this tragedy even more difficult to bear. Pray for his family and for all who knew him. Difficult day for many people in this organization.
ESPN’s Emily Kaplan and The Associated Press contributed to this report.