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Glee star Naya Rivera cried out for help before drowning, tragic autopsy report reveals

Emma Powys Maurice September 13, 2020
Naya Rivera with her four-year-old son, Josey Hollis

Naya Rivera with her four-year-old son, Josey Hollis. (Naya Rivera/ Twitter)

Glee star Naya Rivera raised her arm and called for help before she drowned in the waters of California’s Lake Piru, according to a newly-released autopsy report.

Rivera, who played the character of Santana Lopez on the hit show, went missing while swimming with her four-year-old son Josey on July 8. Her body was found in the lake after a frantic six-day search, with early reports indicating an accidental drowning.

This has now been confirmed in a full autopsy report by the Ventura County medical examiner, which includes her son’s account of her final moments.

Josey said that the pair counted to three before jumping off the pontoon boat together, but after getting into the water she quickly told him to get back in the boat.

“She helped him onto the boat and then he then heard [Naya] yell ‘help’ and she put her arm in the air. She then disappeared into the water,” the report states.

Based on testimony from her son, police believe she used the last of her energy to boost him back onto the pontoon but was unable to save herself.

The autopsy report noted that 33-year-old Rivera “knew how to swim well,” but she had several health problems, including vertigo which “would get worse when she was in the water”.

“The decedent would have vertigo to the point of vomiting, but she learned to control the symptoms with antihistamines,” it said.

Naya Rivera and Kevin McHale on Glee.
Naya Rivera and Kevin McHale on Glee. (FOX Image Collection/Getty)

Toxicology tests showed she had small amounts of the anti-anxiety drug diazepam and the appetite suppressant phentermine in her system. She also had a recent sinus infection, and had a small amount of prescribed amphetamines in her body. The autopsy did not claim those conditions or drugs as factors in her death.

Rivera had “no known history of suicidal ideation or attempt,” and the manner of her drowning has been ruled as accidental.

Her body was found floating in an area of the lake that is about 30 feet deep. The Ventura County sheriff’s office said it was likely she was trapped in thick vegetation underwater for several days before floating to the top.

The star was laid to rest two weeks after her death at Hollywood Hills cemetery Forest Lawn Memorial Park.

More: Glee, naya rivera, Santana Lopez

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