If you believe in curses then you’ve got to be wondering if there’s a hex on the beloved TV musical series “Glee,” staggered over the years by untimely deaths of its cast and crew. Now comes the latest tragedy: the accidental drowning of Naya Rivera.
After more than five days of underwater searching, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office announced Monday that divers recovered a body from a Southern California reservoir and confirmed the identity as Rivera, 33, best known as the snarky Santana Lopez on “Glee.”
The Ventura County medical examiner announced Tuesday that an autopsy showed Rivera died from an accidental drowning in the reservoir about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles in the Los Padres National Forest.
Rivera disappeared in the waters of Lake Piru on Wednesday after she and her 4-year-old son, Josey Dorsey, rented a pontoon boat at the popular recreational destination, according to Capt. Eric Buschow, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office. Authorities said Rivera had been to the lake in the past.
Hours later, the boat was found in the northern end of the reservoir with the boy alone and asleep inside wearing a life vest, and Rivera missing. Her identification was found on the boat, her vehicle was still in the parking lot. The child was rescued and is safe with relatives.
He told deputies he and his mother went swimming together in the lake; she helped her son get back on the boat, lifting him up from the water. When he looked back, she had disappeared beneath the water and never resurfaced.
Buschow said searchers believe Rivera went into the water and accidentally drowned. Sheriff’s officials said there was no evidence of foul play or any indication of a suicide. An autopsy is expected to determine the final cause of death.
The circumstances of Rivera’s death are now clear, and there’s no doubt it’s another grievously sad passing among the people who produced and starred in “Glee,” the hugely popular musical series on Fox about a small-town’s high school glee club and the personal dramas of the teen cast.
“Glee” premiered on Fox in May 2009 and lasted for six seasons before ending in 2015. It garnered a huge audience of devoted fans who used social media to talk up the show and their favorite stars and characters.
The notion that “curses” exist in pop culture is widespread if unscientific. For instance, many people talk knowingly – and even write books – about the “27 Club,” the grisly toll of musicians who died at age 27, including the “big six”: Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Brian Jones.
“That all of them die at 27 is pure coincidence,” according to Howard Sounes, author of the 2013 book, “27: A History of the 27 Club,” which identifies 50 musicians who died at that age.
“But you’ll find that all six had strikingly difficult childhoods,” Sounes told USA TODAY. “They’d all been doing drugs since they were teens, and most of them showed signs of personality disorders from when they were very young. When fame came, it came fast.”
For those associated with “Glee,” death came in their 30s and sometimes by suicide or overdose and in one case, both:
Cory Monteith: Death shocks fans
Monteith, who played lovable jock-turned-geek heartthrob Finn Hudson on the show, was found dead at a hotel in Vancouver, Canada, on July 13, 2013. He was 31.
In an eerie coincidence, Rivera’s body was recovered seven years later to the day.
According to a British Columbia coroner’s report, he died of an accidental drug overdose involving a toxic mixture of heroin and alcohol.
Monteith had voluntarily admitted himself into a rehab facility in March 2013 for substance addiction. He was last seen in public in June with his girlfriend and “Glee” co-star, Lea Michele, at the Chrysalis Butterfly Ball.
But the fans of “Glee” were mostly unaware of his history of substance abuse issues, so his death shocked them and the broader entertainment community. Scores of fans and friends mourned him on Twitter. Michele was especially devastated for years after, she said.
Ryan Murphy, executive producer of the show, described Monteith as “the most kind, the most generous” man, who “never had a bad word for anybody.”
“Glee” gave him a touching sendoff in a tribute episode that October titled “The Quarterback,” written by Murphy and fellow executive producers Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan.
“I’ve never seen a crew that can’t continue shooting because they’ve left the room sobbing. It was very hard,” Murphy told USA TODAY at the time. “I struggled even working on it, because what you’re seeing is what they felt about not just Finn, but Cory. It’s amazing performances across the board. … Everybody went into it with a lot of love.”
Jim Fuller Jr: Assistant director was popular with cast
Just days after the Monteith tribute episode was filmed, Fuller, an assistant director on “Glee” after a career on multiple other TV shows, died in his sleep, on Sept. 14, 2013. He was 41.
The cause of death was not released but is believed to have involved heart failure.
Fuller had been a member of the crew from the beginning of the show and was popular with the cast. Later, the show paid tribute to him, showing his name emblazoned on a chair for a wedding scene.
Nancy Motes: Death leaves Julia Roberts heartbroken
Motes, a production assistant on “Glee” and the half-sister of Julia Roberts and Eric Roberts, was found dead in a bathtub at age 37 in a Los Angeles home on Feb. 9, 2014.
The Los Angeles coroner’s office said an autopsy and toxicology tests determined she drowned after taking several drugs that were not publicly identified.
She left behind a suicide note turned over to her family.
“It’s just heartbreak,” Roberts said in an interview with WSJ. Magazine later. “There aren’t words to explain what any of us have been through in these last 20 days. It’s hour by hour some days, but you just keep looking ahead.”
Mark Salling: Died while awaiting sentencing
Salling, who played Noah “Puck” Puckerman and once dated Rivera, was found dead on Jan. 30, 2018, in a riverbed in the remote area of Big Tujunga Canyon a few miles from his home in the Sunland-Tujunga neighborhood in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.
The Los Angeles coroner’s office later ruled he died by suicide. He was 35.
At the time, Salling was facing a federal prison sentence for possession of child pornography. He was arrested in December 2015 after Los Angeles police served a search warrant on his home, which turned up more than 50,000 illicit images on his computer and a thumb drive, according to a later plea agreement.
In May 2016, he was charged in a federal indictment with receiving and possessing child pornography, the Justice Department in Los Angeles announced. He was scheduled to be sentenced under a plea agreement in which he admitted to possessing pornographic images of prepubescent children.
Salling’s death was mourned by his family but fans of “Glee” had mixed feelings, according to tweets at the time expressing horror at his crimes and appreciation for his part in a show that meant so much to so many.
Aside from these deaths, other factors have contributed to the “curse” theme surrounding “Glee”: Fans on social media have pointed out several unintentionally foreboding scenes on the show that later panned out in real life.
In the 2013 episode memorializing Monteith and his character, Rivera as Santana sang The Band Perry’s “If I Die Young,” which also includes the line “sink me in the river at dawn.”
Salling’s character predicted in Season 3 that by 2030, he would be in “jail, or dead, or both.” At another point, he had to be persuaded by substitute teacher Holly Holliday (Gwyneth Paltrow) not to make a sex tape with another student, which would constitute child pornography.
There have been other more recent controversies returning “Glee” to headlines. :
In November, Melissa Benoist (shy Marley Rose on seasons 4 and 5) opened up about surviving domestic abuse. Though she never named names, online sleuths pointed out the timeline matched up to her relationship with ex-husband and former “Glee” love interest, Blake Jenner (jock Ryder Lynn).
USA TODAY reached out to Jenner at the time and he has not posted on social media since before Benoist made her announcement.
“Glee” made headlines again this year when season 6 cast member Samantha Ware (Jane Hayward) accused Lea Michele (the ever-obnoxious Rachel Berry) of making “traumatic microaggressions” toward her on set, including a comment about defecating in her wig.
“I listened to these criticisms and I am learning and while I am very sorry, I will be better in the future from this experience,” Michele, 33, wrote in a June 3 Instagram post.
Since then, more “Glee” stars have weighed in including Heather Morris (ditzy cheerleader Brittany Pierce), who said Michele was “very much” unpleasant to work with, while Amber Riley (Mercedes Jones) and Alex Newell (Unique Adams) shared GIFs on Twitter that suggested they agreed with Ware’s assessments.
Contributing: Jeremy Childs, Cheri Carlson, Ventura County Star.
If you or someone you know may be struggling with self-harm or suicidal thoughts, you can call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) any time day or night, or chat online.
Crisis Text Line also provides free, 24/7, confidential support via text message to people in crisis when they dial 741741.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Naya Rivera: Latest victim of ‘curse’ of beloved TV musical ‘Glee’?