'Glee' star Naya Rivera died from drowning, autopsy rules

An autopsy issued by the Ventura County Medical Examiner's Office has ruled that actress Naya Rivera died as a result of drowning.

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Sandra Gonzalez
CNN — An autopsy issued by the Ventura County Medical Examiner's Office has ruled that actress Naya Rivera died as a result of drowning.

The "Glee" star's death was also ruled an accident.

"The autopsy findings are consistent with a drowning and the condition of the body is consistent with the time that she was submerged. No traumatic injuries or disease processes were identified at autopsy," the office said in a press release.

Rivera, 33, vanished last week from Lake Piru in Southern California's Ventura County. She went to the lake that afternoon and rented a pontoon boat with her 4-year-old son, according to authorities.

Her son was later found asleep alone on the boat they'd rented.

Her body was recovered on Monday morning.

Authorities said there is no indication that drugs or alcohol played a role in her death, but toxicology testing will be done.

'She was our friend'

Following news of her death, Rivera's former co-stars and friends shared tributes on social media.

On Tuesday, the creators of Fox's "Glee" said in a statement they were "heartbroken" over the death of the actress, who played Santana Lopez on the program for six seasons.

In a statement, Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan recalled how Rivera was not a series regular when she was cast on the show. In fact, she only had a few lines.

"But it didn't take more than an episode or two for us to realize that we had lucked into finding one of the most talented, special stars we would ever have the pleasure of working with," their statement said.

"Naya could act, she could dance, and she could sing (could she ever sing!) She could nail a joke as well as she could crush you with an emotional scene. She could move between being scary tough and deeply vulnerable with ease. She was a joy to write for, a joy to direct and a joy to be around."

The statement also acknowledged the meaningful connection the show's queer female viewers shared with Rivera's character, who was lesbian. They said the "humor and humanity" that she brought to her on-screen relationship with Heather Morris's "Brittany" was "her greatest 'Glee' legacy."

"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," the statement said.

"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."

Their statement added: "Naya was more than just an actor on our show -- she was our friend."

Murphy, Falchuk and Brennan said they are "in the process" of establishing a college fund for Rivera's son.

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