Glee Star Naya Rivera Missing and Presumed Dead in CaliforniaAugust 5, 2020
Fans of the musical comedy series Glee were heartbroken to learn earlier this week that series star Naya Rivera is missing and presumed dead in a lake in California. Rivera, who is 33 years old, rented a pontoon boat Wednesday afternoon with her son, 4-year-old Josey Hollis Dorsey, at Lake Piru in Southern California. When Rivera did not return at the designated time, employees with the boat company searched for her, finding Josey asleep in the pontoon boat with Rivera nowhere in sight.
Search and rescue personnel with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office were immediately deployed and searched Lake Piru for Rivera until late in the evening on Wednesday, briefly calling off the search due to lack of light. Through investigating the scene and speaking with Rivera’s son, deputies determined that Rivera and Josey had been swimming in the water when Rivera went swimming by herself. Additionally, when examining the boat, law enforcement found an adult life vest and Rivera’s pocketbook. When the search resumed on Thursday, it became a search and recovery mission in the afternoon as police personnel felt that Rivera had an accident and drowned in the lake. In addition to searching in the water, police are also checking the lake’s shore for signs of the starlet and mother.
In a press conference with reporters, Sergeant Kevin Donoghue warned that Rivera’s body might never be found if she became entangled in vegetation or debris underwater. Sergeant Donoghue further noted that conditions on the lake make searching difficult, particularly due to low visibility. Nevertheless, Deputy Chris Dyer says that the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office remains committed to finding Rivera and giving the family closure. Currently, search teams are focusing on the northern part of the lake. In addition to personnel from Ventura County, officials from Los Angeles County, Tulare County, and San Luis Obispo County are joining the effort. Boats equipped with sonar are scanning the lake while searchers are also using helicopters to check the lake’s surface. Deputy Dyer added that since the lake is so murky, divers are sifting through branches and other material on the bottom of the lake in hopes of finding Rivera’s body.
Rivera played Santana Lopez on Glee from 2009 to 2015. Rivera’s character quickly became a fan favorite, earning the actress several awards, including two ALMA Awards, a People’s Choice Award, and a Screen Actors Guild Award. News of the alleged accident sent ripples throughout Hollywood and the Glee fanbase. Demi Lovato, who played Dani on Glee, tweeted that she remains hopeful that Rivera will be found alive and well. Heather Morris, who played Rivera’s onscreen wife Brittany on Glee, also remained positive in a statement to the press, expressing hope that Rivera would be found by rescuers. Leah Remini, who starred alongside Rivera in the movie Mad Families, said in an Instagram post that she is praying for her costar. Remini also told of how optimistic and funny Rivera was on set.
Rivera is the third Glee cast member to die under tragic circumstances. In 2013, Finn Hudson actor Cory Monteith died of an accidental heroin and alcohol overdose in a Vancouver hotel at just 31 years old. In 2018, Mark Salling, who played Noah “Puck” Puckerman in the series, committed suicide after being sentenced to prison for possession of child pornography.
The series further made headlines last month following revelations of alleged bad behavior by the cast. Series lead Lea Michele was called out in particular for displaying aggression towards African American castmates and being generally unpleasant to other performers on set.