‘Glee’ star Naya Rivera’s death ruled accidental drowning

July 15, 2020 - 2:42 PM
Cast member Naya Rivera poses at a party to celebrate the premiere of the second season of the television series "Glee" in Los Angeles April 12, 2010. (Reuters/Mario Anzuoni /File Photo)

LOS ANGELES — “Glee” star Naya Rivera died of accidental drowning, the Ventura County medical examiner said on Tuesday, marking the third tragic passing of a cast member from the popular television musical series.

Rivera, 33, was found in Lake Piru, near Los Angeles, on Monday, five days after going missing on a boating trip with her young son.

The medical examiner’s report said there was no indication that drugs or alcohol played a role in her death and no traumatic injuries or other medical conditions.

Rivera played cheerleader Santana Lopez on the 2009-2015 TV series about a high-school choir. Her drowning followed the drug overdose in 2013 of actor Cory Monteith, who played footballer Finn, and the 2018 suicide of Mark Salling (Puck) after pleading guilty of possession of child pornography.

Rivera‘s body was recovered near the surface of the water, in an area where the boat was found, that was 35 to 60 feet deep (11-18 m) and with heavy brush and trees underwater, officials said.

Rivera’s 4-year-old son, Josey, who was discovered alone and sleeping on the boat, told authorities he and his mother had both gone swimming in the lake, a recreational reservoir about 50 miles (80 km) north of downtown Los Angeles.

Sheriff’s officials in charge of the search said on Monday it was not clear what happened, but that Rivera‘s son had told investigators his mother pushed him back into the boat but did not get back in herself. Rivera was not wearing a life vest.

The creators of “Glee,” Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan, said Tuesday they were setting up a college fund for Rivera‘s son.

“She was fun. She was kind. She was generous,” the three producers said in a statement. “Naya was more than just an actor on our show – she was our friend.”

—Reporting by Jill Serjeant in Los Angeles Editing by Sandra Maler, Matthew Lewis and Leslie Adler