NHL Goalie Matiss Kivlenieks 'Died a Hero' in Fireworks Accident by Saving Teammate and His Pregnant Wife

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Matiss Kivlenieks
Matiss Kivlenieks

Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Matiss Kivlenieks

Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins said his late teammate, Matiss Kivlenieks, helped saved lives before his death in a fireworks-related accident on Independence Day.

"He saved not just many lives," Merzlikins said during a memorial for Kivlenieks on Thursday, WBNS reported. "He saved my son, he saved my wife, and he saved me."

According to the Columbus Dispatch, Kivlenieks was in a hot tub celebrating a wedding on July 4, when a fireworks shell inadvertently flew in his direction. He attempted to leave but was struck by a second shell that ignited a few moments later at the home in Novi, Michigan.

The 24-year-old was hit on the left side of his chest and died of external injuries and damage to his heart and lungs, an autopsy report concluded the day after the incident.

During the memorial, Merzlikins said he and his pregnant wife were 20 to 30 feet behind Kivlenieks, and implied that Kivlenieks saved them from potentially being injured.

RELATED: Goalie Matiss Kivlenieks Dies in Tragic Accident with Errant Firework

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"He died a hero," he said. "Matiss. He wasn't my friend. Matiss was my little brother."

Merzlikins also announced his son's middle name would be "Matiss" in honor of Kivlenieks.

Manny Legace — a former Detroit Red Wings goalie and the Blue Jackets goaltending coach — spoke during the memorial and called Kivlenieks part of his "family."

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"Michigan was his second home," Legace, who was hosting the party where the accident occurred, said, according to WDIV. "A lot of you guys don't know, but ever since Kivy joined (the Blue Jackets) he would come up and live with my wife and I every summer. He became a son to us, lived with us throughout the pandemic."

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"He got to become one of my family. He got to be a brother to my daughter and my son, a great friend to our nephew," Legace continued. "I want to thank Matiss' mom and dad for raising a beautiful child."

According to the Dispatch, police said the tragedy is considered an accident and no illegalities have been found during their investigation.