Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins said his teammate Matiss Kivlenieks, who died on July 4 after being struck by a firework, saved him and his pregnant wife who were standing just feet away when the tragic accident happened.
During a memorial service for Kivlenieks on Thursday, Merzlikins said that Kivlenieks “died a hero” after a mortar-style firework erroneously went off in the direction of a hot tub where the 24-year-old Latvian goaltender was.
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“He saved not just many lives, but when it happened, I was standing 20-30 feet back of him and I was hugging my wife,” Merzlikins said. “I was hugging my wife. He saved my son, he saved my wife, and he saved me.”
An autopsy report revealed Kivlenieks was struck in the left side of his chest by an explosive shell while trying to escape from the hot tub and later died from his injuries. The accident took place at around 10 p.m. at the home of Blue Jackets goalie coach Manny Legace, who was celebrating his daughter Sabrina’s wedding.
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“He died as a hero. That’s not me saying it, that was the doctor saying it,” Merzlikins said. “I just wanted you to know that he was a hero. He saved a lot of lives. And I’m pretty sure he did it with a smile.”
“He wasn’t my friend. Matiss was my little brother.
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Novi Police Lt. Jason Meier said Monday that the investigation, which has been completed, will be reviewed by state prosecutors because of the “high-profile nature” of the incident, adding that no criminal charges have been requested in the case.