Update (July 14th): The body of Glee star Naya Rivera was found at Lake Piru Monday morning.
Rivera and her son rented a pontoon boat at the lake on July 8th. The child revealed to rescuers that he and his mother had gone into the water to swim, but the actress did not get back on the boat. He told investigators that he saw his mom disappear under the surface of the water.
“She mustered enough energy to get her son back onto the boat, but not enough to save herself,” Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub said during a news conference.
An autopsy released by the Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled that Rivera died as a result of drowning. Her death was also ruled an accident.
“The autopsy findings are consistent with a drowning and the condition of the body is consistent with the time that she was submerged. No traumatic injuries or disease processes were identified at autopsy,” the office said in a statement.
Original Story (July 9th): Search and rescue efforts for Naya Rivera have now become a recovery operation.
Rivera, who rose to prominence for her role as Santana Lopez on the Fox musical dramedy Glee, is presumed dead after going missing at Lake Piru in Southern California. “We’re presuming that an accident happened and we’re presuming she drowned in the lake,” Ventura County Sheriff’s deputy Chris Dyer said at a news conference Thursday.
“Our hearts and our prayers and thoughts go out to the Rivera family,” added Ventura County Sheriff’s department sergeant Kevin Donoghue. “This is a terrible tragedy… We’re going to do everything we can to find her.”
The 33-year-old actress vanished from the lake Wednesday evening after renting a pontoon boat with her 4-year-old son that afternoon. The boat was overdue for return around 4 p.m. local time, and when it was not returned on time, a rental employee went out to search for the mother and son.
The boat was found on the north end of the lake, and though Rivera’s son was on the boat sleeping, the actress was nowhere to be found. Aside from the life jacket worn by the boy, another life jacket was found on the boat, along with Rivera’s purse, and identification.
A search-and-rescue operation was immediately launched and continued until about 10 p.m. local time on Wednesday. The search resumed on Thursday morning but was shifted to a recovery effort later that day. Authorities said the search of the lake could take up to a week.
After speaking with Rivera’s son, authorities determined that he was the last to see his mother. They, however, couldn’t determine whether the boy saw her go underwater.
Dyer said that while Lake Piru is less dangerous than other lakes, it can be deep in some areas. For instance, the area of the lake in which the boat was found is approximately 30 feet deep.
Donoghue added that the lake also has tall underwater vegetation that could entangle swimmers. “If the body is tangled in something beneath the water it may never come back up,” Donoghue said. “There’s really no strong undercurrents like you would have in the ocean, but sometimes the water can be very cold and the hypothermic elements of being in cold water could affect something.”
Donoghue noted that Rivera had been to the lake before, so “it’s too early to say what happened here. We’re still investigating and just still trying to find out.”
There have been drownings at Lake Piru before, but Ventura County sheriff’s officials said no one has drowned in the lake in the past year.
According to a 2000 Los Angeles Times report that documented a string of drownings at the reservoir, most victims were inexperienced swimmers who were not wearing life jackets and overestimated their own abilities or swam in prohibited areas.