Glee star Naya Rivera saved son before drowning, sheriff says

Glee star Naya Rivera ‘s four-year-old son told investigators that his mother, whose body was found in a Southern California lake Monday, boosted him back on to the deck of their rented boat before he looked back and saw her disappearing under the water, authorities said.

“She must have mustered enough energy to get her son back on the boat, but not enough to save herself,” Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub said at a news conference.

The boy, Josey Hollis Dorsey, was found asleep and alone in a life vest on the drifting pontoon boat about three hours after the pair launched on Lake Piru northwest of Los Angeles, setting off a five-day search that ended with the discovery of the body of the 33-year-old floating near the surface early Monday, authorities said.

The mother and son had gone swimming, which was permitted in that part of the lake, Ayub said. She was not wearing a life vest.

WATCH | Authorities confirm Glee star Naya Rivera found dead in California lake:

Authorities in Ventura County, Calif., say they believe Glee star Naya Rivera drowned during a boating trip with her four-year-old son on Lake Piru. They say there is no indication of foul play or suicide and the body has been taken to the coroner’s office for positive identification. 1:17

Authorities believe that Rivera drowned accidentally, and that her body was most likely trapped in the vegetation under the lake for several days before floating to the top, Ayub said.

Divers had already thoroughly searched the area where she was eventually found, but shrubbery that had grown wildly in the area, which was recently dry, must have kept her hidden in the murky water.

Family members chatted with Rivera via FaceTime when she was on the boat, and search crews watched the videos for clues to where she might have gone down, Ayub said.

“It has been an extremely difficult time for her family throughout this ordeal,” Ayub said “We share in their grief.”

The boat that Rivera was using when she went missing is seen with yellow tape on Lake Piru on July 9. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

Rivera played singing cheerleader Santana Lopez for six seasons on the Fox musical-comedy Glee.

The announcement 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.

Son found on drifting boat

Rivera’s body was flown by helicopter 64 kilometres to the coroner’s office in Ventura, where an autopsy will be conducted and an official identification made, authorities said.

Ayub said the circumstances from the location of the body to the fact that no one else has been reported missing in the lake makes the department “confident that the body we found is Naya Rivera.”

Rivera had experience boating on the lake in Los Padres National Forest an hour’s drive from Los Angeles.

It was closed down and searched by dozens of divers with help from sonar and robotic devices combing the bottom and helicopters and drones searching above.

Surveillance video showed the mother and son parking and renting the boat at about 1 p.m. on July 8.

The vendor who rented it to them went looking for them when they failed to return on time, and found the boat drifting in the northern end of the lake with the boy aboard.

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.

Rivera and Dorsey divorced in 2018 after nearly four years of marriage.

The day before her death, Rivera tweeted a photo of herself and Josey that read, “just the two of us.”

‘What a force you were’

Those who worked with Rivera were among those posting tributes to social media following news of the body’s discovery on Monday.

Another Glee co-star, Chris Colfer, wrote on Instagram: “Being close to her was both a badge of honor and a suit of armor. Naya was truly one of a kind, and she always will be.”

Steven Canals, who co-created and produced the FX television show Pose, tweeted that he was “heartbroken over all the stories that will remain untold.”

20th Century Fox TV and Fox Entertainment also released a statement, saying: “Naya Rivera was a fierce talent with so much more to do and this is such a terrible tragedy. We are forever grateful for the indelible contribution she made to Glee, from the first episode to the last.”

CBC | Arts News

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