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'Glee' Actress Naya Rivera Called For Help Before Drowning In Lake, Autopsy States

Naya Rivera called out for help and raised her hand in the air before disappearing underneath the water, officials say.

By Sharon Lynn Pruitt
Body Found Amid Search For 'Glee' Star Naya Rivera

Actress Naya Rivera called out for help shortly before drowning in California's Lake Piru earlier this year, according to an autopsy report for Rivera, which has shed further light on the circumstances surrounding her tragic death.

The 33-year-old "Glee" actress was found dead in the waters of Lake Piru on July 13, five days after she went missing during a boating trip with her young son. The child later told his grandmother that he and his mother had counted to three before jumping in the water together, the Ventura County Medical Examiner said in an autopsy report obtained by Oxygen.com. Rivera told her son to get back onto the boat and helped him back on board; she then yelled "help" and raised her arm in the air before disappearing underneath the surface.

Rivera's son was found alone that evening on the pontoon boat he and his mother had rented. An employee went looking for it after Rivera failed to return it on time and found the child asleep in a towel and wearing a life vest, the autopsy stated. Sgt. Jenkins of the Ventura County Sheriff's Office said that Rivera had declined the offer of a life jacket when renting the boat, but the employee left one for her on the boat anyway. The life jacket was later found on the boat with the rest of Rivera's belongings.

Naya Rivera 3

Rivera's body was found floating in an area of the lake believed to be between 25 and 30 feet deep, the autopsy states. Her mother, Yolanda Previtire, said that Rivera was a strong swimmer and had swam in Lake Piru multiple times before, but she did struggle with vertigo that was worsened by being in the water. She was being treated for that condition with antihistamines, which were found in her system following her death. A toxicology report also showed the presence of diazepam, which is used to treat anxiety, in addition to the appetite suppressant phentermine and caffeine.

However, officials do not believe that any of those factors contributed to her death. Her cause and manner of death has been ruled an accidental drowning.

After Rivera's son was found alone on the boat, authorities launched an extensive search of the lake that would last for five days before Rivera was found. Investigators said early on that they suspected that Rivera had drowned in a tragic accident after making sure her son was safe.

“She mustered enough energy to get her son back onto the boat, but not enough to save herself,” Ventura County Sheriff William Ayub said during a press conference in July.

Rivera began acting as a child but rose to fame with her role as Santana Lopez on the Fox TV show "Glee," which ran from 2009 to 2015. The show has been marked by tragedy and controversy; actor Cory Monteith died on July 13, 2013, due to a toxic mix of alcohol and heroin, and co-star Mark Salling died by suicide in January 2018, months after pleading guilty to child pornography charges.

Rivera's death certificate states that she was laid to rest at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles on July 24, PEOPLE reports. She is survived by her 5-year-old son, Josey, whom she shared with her ex-husband, actor Ryan Dorsey.

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