Officials Confirm 'Glee' Actress Naya Rivera Died by Drowning

Rebekah Sager
July 14, 2020 - 4:39 pm
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A day after Ventura County Sheriff's officials confirmed the body found in Lake Piru was that of missing actress Naya Rivera, they released the cause of death.

Officials said in a press release "The cause of death is drowning and the matter of death is accident."

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Rivera died at age 33.

On Tuesday, the family also released a statement as reported in Deadline which said "We are so grateful for the outpouring of love and prayers for Naya, Josey and our family over the past week. While we grieve the loss of our beautiful legend, we are blessed to honor her everlasting legacy and magnetic spirit. Naya was an amazing talent, but was an even greater person, mother, daughter and sister."

Read the full statement here.

There was a recovery in process since the announcement made Monday morning after about 9:30 a.m. PDT. 

Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub confirmed that "...based on the location and physical characteristics, clothing and physical condition of the body as well as of the absence of other missing people we are confident that the body we found of Naya Rivera."

He added each day dozens of personnel and watercraft and helicopters were used in the comprehensive search. 

Ayub said that the department has been in touch with the family throughout adding "There was no indication of foul play and no indication of a suicide."

Ayub said the son recounted how he was boosted onto the boat by his mother "...and he looked back and saw her disappear under the surface of the water."

"There are a lot of currents on the lake that appear particularly in the afternoon we believe it was mid-afternoon when she disappeared. The idea of, perhaps, being the boat started drifting and was unanchored and she mustered enough energy to get her son back onto the boat, but not enough to save herself," Ayub said.

Ayub said the body was found floating on the surface of the water.

Rescue crews have been scouring Lake Piru in Ventura County since Wednesday after Rivera, an actress on "Glee," went missing while on a boat trip with her son.

On Monday the cast of "Glee" also gathered at Lake Piru. 

"There was a picture sent to a family member that showed the boy on the boat by a cove," Robert Inglis of the Ventura County Sheriff's Office Search & Rescue Team told US magazine Sunday. "We found where that cove was."

Rivera sent a photo to a family member of her 4-year-old son, Josey, in front of a cove before she disappeared July 8 after diving into Lake Piru.

The time stamp on the photo indicates it was taken about two hours before Rivera's son was found in the boat on the lake. 

On Sunday Ventura County Sheriff's Department said on Twitter: "In today’s search for Naya Rivera, cabins and outbuildings in the surrounding area will be checked once again, as well as the shoreline. This has been part of the ongoing search effort since her disappearance on Wednesday afternoon. Boat crews continue to scan the lake."

On Saturday her mother and brother visited Lake Piru, according to a USA Today story.

"Sgt. Marta Bugarin from the Ventura County Sheriff's Office confirmed that Rivera's mother and brother visited the search site this morning," the USA Today reported.

Capt. Eric Buschow said Friday that sonar is being used to find objects in Lake Piru. He said lake conditions are difficult. He said about 40 personnel are helping out Friday.

"We are still searching," Buschow said adding the visibility of the water is one to two feet. "We are still continuing the search. We know everyone is concerned out there about this case and about locating her and providing some closure to her family."

Buschow said putting divers in the water is not at the same pace as Wednesday or Thursday - they are using sonar to try to get images in the water.

On Thursday afternoon, Ventura County Sheriff's officials briefed the public on the recovery efforts of the missing former actress.

"There was one life jacket on board and one life jacket on the 4-year-old boy. The only thing I can really comment on is that he (Rivera's son) gave enough to investigators to conclude that his mother never made it out of the water," Sgt. Kevin Donoghu said on the missing actress.

She has been missing from Lake Piru in Ventura County after her son was found alone on a rented boat.  Rivera was supposed to bring the boat back at 4 p.m. Wednesday - it was a rental for about three hours.

Officials now believe Rivera has drowned.  Officials also released a video of Rivera getting out of her SUV with some boating gear and walking with her son to the boat launch.

The two of them get in the pontoon and head off into the lake. Additionally, Ventura Co. Sheriff's department released a 911 call reporting Rivera as a missing person. 

About 100 personnel are helping in the search.

The lake is filled with trees and debris on the bottom. Law enforcement says it typically takes 7 to 10 days for a body to rise to the surface.

At around 9:00 a.m. officials brought in helicopters to aid in the search. As a helicopter circled overhead, divers were checking out something they appeared to spot in the water.