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NI Glee actor Damian McGinty leads tributes to star Naya Rivera after tragic death at 33

A former Glee actor from Northern Ireland is among those paying tribute to Naya Rivera after her death was confirmed at the age of 33.

The actress went missing last week during a boating trip at Lake Piru in southern California with her four-year-old son Josey Hollis.

Her body was found on Monday, Ventura County Sheriff's Office confirmed. Shortly after the news was announced there was an avalanche of tributes to Rivera, who was best known for playing high school cheerleader Santana Lopez on Glee.

Her co-stars on the musical-comedy series were among those paying tribute.

Derry-born actor Damian McGinty, who played Rory Flanagan in the series, tweeted: "Just unbelievable. Grateful to have known you and worked with you and your talent. RIP Naya."

Posting a clip of them in a scene together he said: "I was a newcomer to acting. She was the real deal and every scene we did together she was a mixture of terrifying and hilarious. A brilliant combo. Great, but really sad memories."

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Former Glee actor Damian McGinty

Former Glee actor Damian McGinty

Former Glee actor Damian McGinty

Demi Lovato, who played Rivera's on-screen girlfriend on the show, said she will "forever cherish" starring alongside her.

She posted pictures of the pair on set together and said: "The character you played was groundbreaking for tons of closeted (at the time) queer girls like me, and your ambition and accomplishments were inspiring to Latina women all over the world."

Darren Criss played Blaine Anderson on Glee and paid tribute to a "wild, hilarious, beautiful angel". He tweeted: "She played by her own rules and was in a class of her own. She had a brashness about her that I couldn't help but be enchanted by. I also always loved her voice, and savoured every chance I got to hear her sing."

Criss added: "And even as I sit here, struggling to comprehend, gutted beyond description - the very thought of her cracks me up and still brings a smile to my face. That was Naya's gift. And it's a gift that will never go away."

Jane Lynch, who played ruthless cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester, tweeted: "Rest sweet, Naya. What a force you were. Love and peace to your family."

Chris Colfer shared a lengthy tribute on Instagram.

He wrote: "Her brilliance and humour were unmatched. Her beauty and talent were otherworldly. She spoke truth to power with poise and fearlessness. She could turn a bad day into a great day with a single remark.

"She inspired and uplifted people without even trying. Being close to her was both a badge of honour and a suit of armour. Naya was truly one of a kind, and she always will be."

Colfer, who played Kurt Hummel, added: "Sending all my love to her wonderful family and her beautiful son."

Lea Michele played Rachel Berry and posted a black and white picture of Rivera to her Instagram story, as well as an image of Glee cast members at a beach.

Kevin McHale, who played Artie Abrams in Glee, said Rivera's death "doesn't make sense. And I know it probably never will".

In a long tribute posted on Instagram he described the actress as "the most talented person I've ever known".

Belfast Telegraph