Glee Star Naya Rivera’s Cause Of Death Was Accidental Drowning, Medical Examiner Rules

Matt Bagwell
·3-min read

Glee star Naya Rivera’s death has been ruled an accident, the Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office has said.

The actor’s body was recovered from Lake Piru in Southern California on Monday after she was reported missing following a boating trip with her four-year-old son on 8 July.

A full autopsy has now been performed, with the 33-year-old’s death declared as accidental drowning, the medical examiner said.

Naya Rivera (Photo: AdMedia / MediaPunch/MediaPunch/IPx)
Naya Rivera (Photo: AdMedia / MediaPunch/MediaPunch/IPx)

No traumatic injuries or evidence of disease were found – and there is no indication that alcohol or drugs played a part in her death, the medical examiner said.

But specimens from the body will be submitted for toxicology testing, they added.

Naya’s family have since shared a tribute in a statement to Deadline.

“We are so grateful for the outpouring of love and prayers for Naya, Josey and our family over the past week,” it reads.

“While we grieve the loss of our beautiful legend, we are blessed to honour her everlasting legacy and magnetic spirit. Naya was an amazing talent, but was an even greater person, mother, daughter and sister.”

After thanking the rescuers who helped find her body, the family added: “Heaven gained our sassy angel. We kindly request that our privacy be respected during this very difficult time.”

Naya drowned at Lake Piru after the actor rented a pontoon boat and had been swimming with her son who was the last one to see her before she went missing.  (Photo: Al Seib via Getty Images)
Naya drowned at Lake Piru after the actor rented a pontoon boat and had been swimming with her son who was the last one to see her before she went missing. (Photo: Al Seib via Getty Images)

Since news of her death was confirmed, tributes have poured in for the star, who was best known for playing cheerleader Santana Lopez on TV musical-comedy Glee from 2009-2015.

The show’s creators, Ryan Murphy, Ian Brennan and Brad Falchuk, shared their own tribute, and announced plans to establish a college fund for her son Josey Hollis.

In a joint statement, they praised her work on the show and said she was a “joy to write for, a joy to direct and a joy to be around”.

Her portrayal of Santana, an openly LGBT character who proved hugely popular with fans, was described as groundbreaking.

The creators said: “It was one of the first times an openly lesbian, high school relationship was seen on network television and Naya understood what ‘Brittana’ meant to the many young women who were seeing themselves represented on television for the first time.

“Naya always made sure that Santana’s love for Brittany was expressed with dignity, strength and with pure intentions. Naya was always moved by the girls who reached out to her to tell her how much Santana and Brittany’s love affected them.

“Naya’s obligation to them – and to all of her fans – was obvious. She had the rare combination of humility and endless confidence in her talent.”

They said Naya a was a “real pro” who “always kept everyone laughing on the set”.

They added: “Our hearts go out to her family, especially her mom, Yolanda, who was a big part of the Glee family and her son Josey.”

The creators are now establishing a college fund for Josey.

Gwyneth Paltrow has paid tribute to her former Glee co-star. (Photo: PA)
Gwyneth Paltrow has paid tribute to her former Glee co-star. (Photo: PA)

Their tributes came as Glee cast members told of their grief following Naya’s death.

Heather Morris played Santana’s love interest Brittany and had remained a close friend of Naya, joining her family at the lake during their agonising wait for news.

She wrote on Instagram she was “taking a moment to honour my grief”, thanked fans for their support and said she was “taking care of myself and my family”.

Gwyneth Paltrow, who had a recurring role on the show, said she is in “utter shock and disbelief”.

She shared a clip from Glee of her performing alongside Naya and described it as a “special moment”.

READ MORE:

Body Found In Search For Missing Glee Star Naya Rivera

Tributes Paid To Glee Star Naya Rivera After Death Is Confirmed By Police

Naya Rivera's Glee Co-Star Amber Riley Shares Heartbreaking Duet With Son

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<strong>Naya Rivera (1987 – 2020)<br /><br /></strong>Naya was best known for her portrayal of Santana Lopez in the hit musical comedy Glee. Naya's body was found five days after she went missing at a lake in California.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.