UPPER ARLINGTON, Ohio (AP) — Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks was hailed as a friend and hero during a memorial service held Thursday for the player who died on the Fourth of July from an errant fireworks mortar blast.
Authorities have said the firework at a private home northwest of Detroit tilted slightly and started to fire toward people nearby. Kivlenieks was in a hot tub and was trying to move out of the way of the firework when he was struck.
He suffered chest trauma and was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Fellow Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins, a close friend of the 24-year-old Kivlenieks, told the mourners at the Schoedinger Funeral Home in Upper Arlington that his teammate saved him and his pregnant wife the night he was killed.
Merzlikins said he and his wife were roughly 20 to 30 feet behind Kivlenieks when he was struck, telling the crowd: “He saved not just many lives … He saved my (unborn) son, he saved my wife, and he saved me.”
To honor his fallen friend, Merzlikins said his son’s middle name will be Matiss.
Police in Novi, Michigan, have not requested charges in Kivlenieks’ death, saying it still is considered accidental. However, they have asked the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office to review the matter, citing the “high-profile nature” of the death.