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No charges coming in fireworks-related death at home of former Red Wing

Tony Paul, The Detroit News on

Published in Hockey

There will be no charges pursued stemming from the fireworks-related death of an NHL goalie at the Novi home of a former Red Wing during a July 4 celebration, the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office announced Wednesday.

The death of Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Matiss Kivlenieks has officially been ruled accidental, and the case is now closed.

The incident occurred Sunday, July 4, at the home of former Red Wings goalie Manny Legace, who was Kivlenieks' goalie coach with Columbus.

Kivlenieks was one of several people sitting on the ledge of a hot tub when a stage of lit fireworks, located less than 20 feet away down by Meadowbrook Lake bordering Legace's back yard, tipped over and was facing the hot tub. One witness described the tipped-over fireworks "like a gun pointed right at you." People in the hot tub scampered to safety, and Kivlenieks was the last one out, according to a police report. He was struck by shell-and-mortar-style fireworks, causing major heart and lung damage.

Initial reports the morning July 5 suggested he died of a head injury slipping and hitting his head on the concrete while getting out of the hot tub, but that was quickly ruled out.

Two 911 calls were placed after 10 p.m. July 4, and party-goers, including one registered nurse, attempted to render aid, before paramedics arrived on the scene, within five minutes of the first emergency call. Kivlenieks was pronounced dead at Ascension Providence Hospital in Novi, but likely died shortly after the fireworks impact, according to an autopsy. The county medical examiner described the initial impact as "devastating."

Novi Police Lt. Jason Meier has said there was no indication that anyone consuming alcohol was setting off the fireworks. Police were not expected to seek charges after interviewing at least 10 witnesses who had attended the party.

 

Legace told police that he had been hosting fireworks displays at his home for at least 15 years, and never before had experienced an issue. Witnesses at the party described a "puff of smoke" when the fireworks tipped over; one person at the party yelled, "Bail!" according to a police report released Wednesday. Another witness described a scene of "many people running everywhere and a lot of chaos."

Kivlenieks, 24, a native of Latvia, played eight games for the Blue Jackets, including two — one win and one loss — against the Red Wings last season.

Kivlenieks spent the summers at Legace's house and lived there during the pandemic. He was in town that weekend for the wedding of Legace's daughter.

Legace, who played for the Red Wings from 1999-2006, spoke at his memorial service.

"We're not even close to even getting over this," Legace, 48, said during an interview with Bally Sports Detroit in early October. "He was a kid to us.

"He just became one of our family."

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