Oakland County prosecutor rules Blue Jackets goalie Matiss Kivlenieks' death accidental

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald's office will not pursue criminal charges in the fireworks-related incident that took place July 4 at the home of Blue Jackets goalie coach Manny Legace.

Brian Hedger
The Columbus Dispatch

Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks’ death July 4 has been ruled accidental by a Michigan county prosecutor’s office and no criminal charges will be sought. 

Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald’s office deliberated over the case for nearly five months after receiving a report about the fireworks accident from Novi police. Kivlenieks, 24, died after being struck in the chest by a three-inch mortar shell fired from a tube that tipped toward a hot tub in which he was seated. 

The fireworks device was a “cake style” rack of nine mortar shells in tubes arranged in three rows of three. It was set off in the backyard of a home owned by the team’s goaltending coach, Manny Legace, who was hosting a celebration that followed his daughter’s wedding. 

Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks, 24, was extremely popular among his teammates.

Kivlenieks, from Latvia, sustained extensive damage to his chest and fatal damage to his heart and lungs from the mortar shell – which was the largest allowed under Michigan law for consumer use. He attended the gathering with Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins and Merzlikins’ wife, Aleksandra, who was pregnant with the couple’s first child. 

'An unreal story':Matiss Kivlenieks' unique journey to reaching his dream as NHL goalie for the Blue Jackets

Merzlikins has since described his version of what happened and said Kivlenieks saved others from injuries or death, including his son,— who was born Aug. 20 and was given the name Knox Matiss Merzlikins

Novi police conducted the initial investigation into the incident and concluded Kivlenieks’ death was a tragic accident. Criminal charges were not recommended. The report was sent to McDonald’s office for review. Shortly after getting the report, the prosecutor’s office requested further information from police, but the specifics of that request were not released. 

The ruling Wednesday closes the case. 

bhedger@dispatch.com

@BrianHedger