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Fallen Blue Jackets goalie remembered as friend, hero

FILE - Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks (80) is shown during the second...
FILE - Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks (80) is shown during the second period of an NHL hockey game in New York, in this Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, file photo. The Columbus Blue Jackets and Latvian Hockey Federation said Monday, July 5, 2021, that 24-year-old goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks has died. The team said in a statement Kivlenieks died from an apparent head injury in a fall after medical personnel arrived. It was not immediately clear what caused the fall or where he was at the time of the incident, and multiple messages were left with team and national federation personnel that were not immediately returned.(AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)
Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 11:50 PM EDT
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(AP) - Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks was hailed as a friend and hero during a memorial service for the player who died on the Fourth of July from an errant fireworks mortar blast.

Authorities have said the firework at a private home northwest of Detroit tilted slightly and started to fire toward people nearby. Kivlenieks was in a hot tub and was trying to move out of the way of the firework when he was struck.

Fellow Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins, a close friend of the 24-year-old Kivlenieks, told the mourners on Thursday that his teammate saved him and his pregnant wife the night he was killed.

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