Diving teams and law enforcement had been searching the waters of California’s Lake Piru, which is approximately 90 kilometres northwest of downtown Los Angeles, for five days.
It appears Rivera drowned in the Lake Piru reservoir last Wednesday, where she had rented a pontoon boat with her four-year-old son, Josey Dorsey. She was 33. Her body, which was found floating in the lake at approximately 9:10 a.m. PT, is being taken to the Ventura County’s Medical Examiner’s Office, where an autopsy will be conducted.
Police confirmed that there was no reason to think Rivera’s death was a suicide or that it involved foul play.
Rivera’s young son was found on the boat by himself wearing a life-jacket late Wednesday, and the actor’s identification was also found on the vessel.
The Southern California lake was closed while officials searched its waters for the Glee star, calling it a search and recovery effort on Thursday.
Sheriff’s officials launched a boat and helicopter search last Wednesday afternoon, but that had been suspended by nighttime. The search continued early Thursday and over the weekend.
According to multiple reports, about three hours after Rivera and her son left the dock, another boater discovered their vessel drifting, with the child asleep on board.
Authorities were notified after the boat was discovered, and they began searching from the air and with a dive team.
“The child said they went swimming but the mother didn’t get back on the boat,” Ventura County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Eric Buschow said during a news conference before Rivera’s body was found. He said the child had on a life-jacket and that an adult life-jacket was found on the boat.
“He’s in good health,” Buschow told the Los Angeles Times of Rivera’s son at the time. “The family is going through a very traumatic time right now.
“We’re going on the belief that she did go in the water and we have not been able to locate her. So this may well be a case of drowning.”
Early Thursday morning, the Ventura Co. Sheriff Twitter account tweeted a video of a helicopter searching the water for Rivera, writing: “The missing person at Lake Puru (sic) has been identified as Naya Rivera, 33, of Los Angeles. SAR operation will continue at first light. @VCAirUnit @FilmoreSheriff @Cal_OES.”
Rivera’s car was found near the lake.
“The child was found asleep on the boat. Their vehicle, a black Mercedes G Wagon found in the parking lot with her purse inside,” reporter Stephanie Stanton tweeted.
Many of Rivera’s Glee co-stars, friends and fans took to Twitter once news spread that her body was found.
Rivera’s four-year-old son is from her marriage with actor Ryan Dorsey. The couple finalized their divorce in June 2018 after nearly four years together.
She called her young son “my greatest success, and I will never do any better than him” in her 2016 memoir Sorry Not Sorry.
Rivera played Santana, a cheerleader in the musical-comedy Glee, which aired on Fox from 2009 until 2015. She appeared in 113 episodes of the series.
Rivera has now become the third major cast member from Glee to die in their 30s.
Cory Monteith, one of the show’s leads, died at 31 in 2013 from a toxic mix of alcohol and heroin — seven years ago to the day when Rivera’s body was recovered.
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 was engaged to rapper Big Sean in 2013, but their relationship ended a year later. The pair met on Twitter and collaborated musically, with the rapper appearing on Rivera’s debut single Sorry.
She started her acting career at a young age and appeared on shows like The Royal Family, Family Matters and The Bernie Mac Show.
— With files from the Associated Press and Chris Jancelewicz