‘He saved my son, he saved my wife, he saved me’: NHL goalkeeper, 24, who was killed in firework tragedy at party ‘died a hero’
Latvian ace Matiss Kivlenieks was killed in a horrific accident at the home of Columbus Blue Jackets goaltending coach Manny Legace on July 4, when the 24-year-old was fatally struck in the chest while attempting to a flee a hot tub and protect others after seeing a mortar-style firework fly over his head.
Now countryman and fellow Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins has revealed the part Kivlenieks played in saving him, his pregnant wife and their unborn child in the shocking moments before his death, paying an emotional tribute at a memorial service for the late star.
"When it happened, I was standing 20, 30 feet back from him," Merzlikins told the room of mourners.
"He saved my son, he saved my wife and he saved me. ... He died as hero."Elvis Merzlikins at the memorial service for Matiss Kivlenieks. Kivlenieks died after he was struck in the chest by a fireworks mortar shell on July 4. pic.twitter.com/69C09ggG67— Sporting News (@sportingnews) July 15, 2021
Merzlikins admits that Matiss Kivlenieks saved him, his wife and the baby they are expecting. They were 20-30 feet behind him. God. Heartbreaking. #CBJ— Mark Scheig (@markscheig) July 15, 2021
"I was hugging my wife. He saved my son, he saved my wife, and he saved me. My son's second name is going to be Matiss.
"If that wasn't me or my wife or son, that would be 50 other people. He died a hero, and that's not me saying it. That was the doctor saying it.
"If he would just sit, it wouldn't have happened. He saved his last puck. I just wanted to let you know that he was a hero. He saved a lot of lives.
"Every single day, I told him that I really loved him. I told him that he's my brother, not just my friend. We had our last beer, our last shot, our last cigar – more than one. He was always smiling."
Legace, who had thrown the party to celebrate his daughter's wedding, called Kivlenieks a "beautiful angel".
"He got to become one of my family: a brother to my daughter and my son, a great friend to my nephew," he said, fighting back tears.
"He got to be best friends with Elvis. I want to thank Matiss's mom and dad for raising a beautiful child.
"He made us so proud – look how many lives he touched. On and off the ice, he greeted people with a smile. He never wanted to be the front of attention."Also on rt.com Fireworks blamed in death of ice hockey star Matiss Kivlenieks as new details emerge about tragic hot tub incident