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Columbus blue jackets Goalkeeper Elvis Merzlikins said his teammate Matiss Kivlenieks, who was struck by a firecracker on July 4th, saved him and his pregnant wife, who were standing meters away when the tragic accident happened.
During a memorial service for Kivlenieks Thursday, Merzlikins said Kivlenieks “died a hero” after a mortar-style firework was falsely set off towards a hot tub that the 24-year-old Latvian goalkeeper was in.
MICHIGAN PROSECUTOR REVIEWS FIREWORKS RELATED DEATH OF MATISS KIVLENIEKS OF BLUE JACKETS
“Not only did he save many lives, but when it happened I was standing 20 to 30 feet from him and hugging my wife,” said Merzlikins. “I hugged my wife. He saved my son, he saved my wife and he saved me.”
An autopsy report found that Kivlenieks was struck by an explosive shell in the left side of his chest while attempting to escape the hot tub and later died of his injuries. The accident happened around 10 p.m. at the home of Blue Jackets goalkeeping coach Manny Legace, who was celebrating the wedding of his daughter Sabrina.
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“He died a hero. I didn’t say that, the doctor said that,” said Merzlikins. “I just wanted you to know he was a hero. He saved many 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 closed, is being reviewed by prosecutors due to the “high profile” of the incident, adding that no criminal charges have been brought in the case.