LOS ANGELES (AP) — The body of “Glee” star Naya Rivera was found Monday at a Southern California lake, authorities said. Ventura County Sheriff’s officials confirmed at an afternoon news conference that the body that search crews found floating in the northeast corner of Lake Piru earlier in the day was the 33-year-old Rivera.
The discovery came five days after the 33-year-old Rivera disappeared on Lake Piru, where her son was found July 8 asleep and alone on a rented pontoon boat, authorities said. Authorities said the following day that they believed Rivera had drowned, and they had shifted to working to find her body rather than find her alive.
The body was flown 40 miles (64 kilometres) to the coroner’s office in Ventura, where an autopsy would be conducted, Sheriff’s Capt. Eric Buschow said. Rivera’s family has been notified of the discovery.
The lake an hour’s drive from Los Angeles was searched by dozens of divers working in waters with little visibility, with help from sonar and robotic devices combing the bottom and helicopters and drones searching above.
“I can’t imagine what it’s like for her parents, her family,” Buschow said. “It takes an emotional toll on the search teams too.”
Rivera played singing cheerleader Santana Lopez for six seasons on the Fox musical-comedy “Glee.” She is the third major cast member from the show to die in their 30s. The confirmation of her death comes seven years to the day after co-star Cory Monteith died at 31 from a toxic mix of alcohol and heroin, with the series losing one of its leads while it was still on the air.
Another co-star, Mark Salling, who Rivera dated at one point, killed himself in 2018 at age 35 after pleading guilty to child pornography charges. Rivera had experience boating on the lake in Los Padres National Forest, authorities said. Surveillance video shows Rivera and her son, Josey Hollis Dorsey, leaving on the rented boat.
When the boat failed to return, its vendor found the vessel drifting in the northern end of the lake late Wednesday afternoon with the boy asleep on board, about three hours after it was first taken out. The boy told investigators that he and his mother had been swimming and he got back into the boat but she didn’t, according to a sheriff’s office statement.
The boy was wearing a life vest, and another life jacket was found in the boat along with Rivera’s purse and identification. The boy, Rivera’s son from her marriage to actor Ryan Dorsey, was safe and healthy and quickly reunited with family members after he was found, authorities said. His parents divorced in 2018 after nearly four years of marriage. The most recent tweet on Rivera’s account, from the day before her death, read “just the two of us” along with a photo of her and her son.