Following the discovery of Naya Rivera’s body in a California lake, authorities are piecing together what they believe happened in the “Glee” actress’ final moments.
Rivera, 33, vanished on Wednesday after renting a pontoon boat with her 4-year-old son Josey at Lake Piru in Ventura County, California. The child was found alone and asleep on the boat hours later, with Rivera nowhere to be seen. Her son later told authorities that he saw her go underneath the water but not come back up again. On Monday, search and rescue teams found a body they believe to be Rivera’s, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office confirmed.
In a press conference held at the lake on Monday afternoon, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that it is their belief that Rivera drowned during a swim with her son, but only after using what strength she had left to make sure that her son was safe. Her son told investigators that his mother “boosted him onto the deck from behind” but when he looked back, he saw her disappearing under the water, Ventura County Sheriff William Ayub said.
Authorities speculated that Rivera and her son were in the water in the mid-afternoon, when currents are known to develop; the boat was not anchored and could have begun drifting, Ayub explained.
“She mustered enough energy to get her son back onto the boat, but not enough to save herself,” Ayub said.
Rivera was found floating near the surface of the water in a northeastern area of the lake; the waters there are between 35 to 60 feet deep, and there is “heavy brush” on the bottom, authorities said. They believe, due to interviews with Rivera’s son and witnesses who were also on the lake that day, that the area where Rivera was found is where she and her son had been swimming. Although divers focused their search on that area from the beginning, the overgrown brush on the floor of the lake likely concealed Rivera's body, Ayub said.
Authorities said that, while the medical examiner still needs to positively identify the victim and perform an autopsy, they are confident that it is Rivera due to the clothing the victim was wearing, the location where the body was found, and the condition it was in. Rivera was also the only person reported missing in Lake Piru at the time.
“We are confident the body we found is that of Naya Rivera,” Ayub said.
There was no indication of foul play or suicide; investigators believe that Rivera’s death was an accident.
Rivera starred on the hit show "Glee" during its run from 2009 to 2015, and appeared in a variety of projects, like the recent “Step Up” series, during a decades-long career that began in childhood.
Following her disappearance, her loved ones — including her ex-husband, actor Ryan Dorsey, with whom she shared her son Josey — were seen gathering at the lake. After her body was found, her family and friends joined together to hold hands at the shoreline in tribute, according to Page Six.
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