Naya Rivera's Body Found: Everything We Know About Her Tragic Disappearance and Death

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Police announced on Monday during a press conference that they are confident they have found Naya Rivera's body in Lake Piru in California. Authorities had been searching for Rivera since Wednesday, July 8, after she went missing after taking a boat ride in the lake with her 4-year-old son, Josey.

The Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed on Tuesday -- a day after the late 33-year-old actress' body was found at Lake Piru, California, after she went missing last Wednesday -- that it was Rivera's body they discovered, as well as announcing that the cause of death was drowning by accident.

The autopsy reveals that "no traumatic injuries or disease processes were identified." There was also no indication that drugs or alcohol played a role in her death, "but specimens will be submitted for toxicology testing."

During the press conference on Monday, Sheriff Bill Ayub from the Ventura County Sheriff's Office said that his heart goes out to Rivera's family, friends and fans.

Here's everything ET knows about Rivera's tragic disappearance and death.

Cause of death:

The Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed on Tuesday, July 14, that it was Rivera's body they discovered and that the cause of death was drowning by accident.

"The circumstances and visual characteristics all indicated that the body was that of Naya Rivera and the identity has been confirmed by dental comparison," the statement read. "The body has been X-rayed and a full autopsy has been performed. The autopsy findings are consistent with a drowning and the condition of the body is consistent with the time that she was submerged."

The autopsy revealed that "no traumatic injuries or disease processes were identified." There was also no indication that drugs or alcohol played a role in her death, "but specimens will be submitted for toxicology testing."

There is no indication of foul play or suicide:

Ayub said a body had been found near the surface of the water at the northeastern portion of the lake at around 9:10 a.m. on Monday, and that based on the location of the body and physical characteristics, police are confident it is Rivera. The area has heavy brush and trees that are 15 to 20 feet in height, which made it difficult to find the body.

"We are confident the body we found is that of Naya Rivera," Ayub said.

The body will be taken to the Ventura County Medical Examiner's Office for an autopsy and official identification through dental records.

Rivera may have died saving her son:

Ayub said that Josey told police that he and his mother went swimming and that while she was able to push him back up on the deck of the boat, she never resurfaced. Ayub said that the body was found in the same place they were searching, and they believe that's where she was swimming when she disappeared.

Ayub said that there were sometimes strong currents in the lake in the afternoon, and that Rivera possibly had enough strength to push her son back in the boat but not herself.

Rivera's son was found on their boat alone:

An eyewitness tells ET that they saw the former Glee star and her son arrive at Lake Piru in the Los Padres National Forest in Ventura County, California, around 1 p.m. on July 8. Rivera was wearing white shorts, a white hat and carrying a large bag, the eyewitness recalls, adding that she rented a boat and was assisted by attendants getting into it with Josey.

The source notes that they saw nothing out of the ordinary when it came to Rivera and her son.

"It was a beautiful day. It was comfortable weather and there were other pontoon boats in the water and even a water skier," the eyewitness tells ET. "She looked like any other mother with her son going out to enjoy the day."

The eyewitness says they did not see Rivera or her son again that day. The Ventura County Sheriff's Office later released video of Rivera and her son arriving at Lake Piru, renting a boat and departing the dock. 

According to the Ventura County Sheriff's Office, Rivera and her son rented a boat at around 1 p.m. and approximately three hours later, another boater discovered Josey asleep in the boat by himself.

Naya Rivera and Josey
Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images

Rivera was not wearing a life vest:

Authorities said that although Josey was wearing a life vest when he was found, Rivera's life vest was still in the boat. Rivera's purse and wallet were also found on the boat, along with food, investigators said.

In a Los Angeles Times report published in September 2000, the newspaper reported that seven people had drowned in Lake Piru between 1994 and 2000. Lake Piru's parks and recreation services manager at the time, Douglas West, said that most victims were inexperienced swimmers who weren't wearing life jackets and who overestimated their own abilities.

"The only thing I can emphasize is that if swimmers are around water, they need to wear a personal flotation device whether they know how to swim or not," West said. "That will save their lives."

Rivera never made it out of the water:

In a press conference on Thursday, July 9, Ventura County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Sgt. Kevin Donoghue said that they had no indication after talking to her son that Rivera made it to shore, and they would continue to search the lake.

Donoghue noted that Rivera had experience boating and had been to the lake before, but did not know if her son had. They do not know how long she was in the water with her son before she went missing, or how long the boat had been operating without her.

"It's too early to say what happened," Donoghue said. "It's not uncommon that we have boating accidents and people lose their lives."

The sheriff said the boat's rental company went out to find the boat around 4:30 p.m., when Rivera did not return at her scheduled time. They found the boat and called 911.

The complicating factors of the search:

The Ventura County sheriff said that complicating factors include the lake's poor visibility. "There's a lot of trees and plants that are under the water that makes it harder for divers," he noted.

"In this particular lake, in that area, there's a lot of trees and plants and such that are under the water that can cause entanglements. It makes it unsafe for the divers and it makes it a more complicated search," Donoghue explained. "If the body is entangled in something beneath the water, it may never come back up. We don't know."

Max O'Brien, a diver involved in the search, reiterated how visibility was making the search difficult in a video posted on Twitter.

"The visibility is about one to two feet and then in some clearings it's up to three to five. There's a lot of tree branches and overgrowth from when the lake was lower, so we're digging through, breaking through sticks and searching a heavy brush bottom," he said. "Under the water, it's a lot by feel. Again, there's a lot of shrubbery and sticks that we have to break through as we're going through, so it's kind of a Braille search."

The boat was not anchored and was found out on the water, which means they would search the surrounding area and then branch out.

On Friday, July 10, Ventura County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Capt. Eric Buschow shared that with only one to two feet of visibility, cadaver dogs, sonar devices, ROV technology, a Coast Guard helicopter and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department had been called in to help search for Rivera.

"Unfortunately, the targets that they've marked so far and gone down and investigated, have not been what they're looking for, so the search continues," Buschow said at the time, explaining that they are focusing on the north side and east side of the lake. 

"Wherever she went down, they're confident that that's where she'll be found, it's just finding that spot that's the difficult part," he said, adding that the lake is two miles long and its deepest point is about 130 feet. "There's a lot of area to cover."

Video of the ROV used by the Tulare County Sheriff's Office to search for Rivera was released late Friday, showing the lake's underwater visibility.

The search for Rivera continued as a recovery effort:

After officials were notified on Wednesday, a search for Rivera was immediately initiated with the use of helicopters, divers and drones. The Ventura County Sheriff's Office announced late Wednesday that the search for Rivera was suspended well into the evening, and that search and rescue efforts would continue "at first light" on Thursday.

According to CBS Los Angeles, officials then called their search a recovery effort as opposed to a rescue mission.

"This is considered to be a horrible accident," Ventura County Sheriff's Department officials told NBCLA, expressing that no foul play was suspected. On Thursday, during a press conference, the Ventura County Sheriff's Office said that it would continue to put "forth our best foot forward to find her," adding, "We're going to do everything we can to find her."

Shortly after 9 p.m. on Thursday, July 9, an NBC Los Angeles reporter tweeted that the search had been called off for the night. The search resumed at daybreak the next day, according to a press conference.

Donoghue said that the search would not continue indefinitely.

"Those that are responsible for managing the overall search, they may get to a point in time where they've expelled every resource, they've searched every area, the probability of detection, of finding someone in a particular area, they've exhausted," he said. "When we get to that point, that's when they would probably have to suspend the search."

"But we're not there yet," he added.

Buschow told reporters on Friday, July 10, that they are working to give the family "closure." Rivera's son is currently with his family.

"We're still continuing the search," Buschow stated at the time. "We know everyone's concerned out there, about this case and providing some closure for her family. This is a situation that is difficult because we don't know if she will be found five minutes from now or five days from now."

"Our investigators have been in contact with the family since the beginning of this. We have a liaison with the family, working with them, and, of course, they are going through an extremely difficult time," he added. "We're trying to do everything we can to provide as much resources as we can and provide some closure for them."

Rivera's family visits the lake:

On Saturday, July 11, a spokesperson for the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, who was on the scene at Lake Piru, confirmed to ET that Rivera's family members were at the lake with investigators. As of 2:45 p.m., the family was still there. The spokesperson could not confirm which specific family members were at the lake.

"We've been utilizing all the same resources we’ve been utilizing the last three days: cadaver dogs, sonar technology, helicopters," the spokesperson told ET. "Tulare County Sheriff has been assisting since the beginning and we have San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office [assisting too]."

Per the spokesperson, there had been no status change. When asked if Rivera was still presumed dead, the spokesperson replied, "That's correct. It’s a recovery effort on our part and our hope is to obviously bring closure to the family. They are pretty devastated as you can imagine. That's our goal, to bring that closure to them as best we can here."

Rivera's ex-husband, Ryan Dorsey -- with whom she shares her young son -- was also seen visiting Lake Piru on Saturday. The actress first filed for divorce from Dorsey in November of 2016 after two years of marriage, but their divorce wasn't finalized until June 2018.

A petition has been started regarding the dangers of the lake: 

Over 20,000 have signed a Change.org petition calling for warning signs at Lake Piru. "Naya Rivera is not the first, nor the last to go missing at Lake Piru. Lake Piru is a very deep lake with very bad whirlpools, people have been asking for years for the city to put up warning signs for swimmers," writes Erin Jordan, who started the petition and lives in Ventura, California. "Locals of Ventura County don't go to Lake Piru for this reason! Tourist have no idea what they’re getting into. Lake Piru needs signs. We're tired of waiting. We need justice for all those who got lost at Lake Piru. Put up the signs."

Cabins are checked again, and fans are discouraged from searching "on your own": 

On Sunday, the Ventura County Sheriff's Office revealed that they were once again searching cabins and buildings in the surrounding area, while boat crews continue to search the lake. 

And while Rivera's Glee co-star, Heather Morris, offered to help with the search, the Sheriff's Office discouraged citizens from trying to search the area themselves. 

"For those intent on searching for Naya Rivera on your own, 1. The lake is closed. 2. Temps are already in the 90's. 3. The terrain around the lake is very steep and rugged. Our teams are well equipped and highly trained. We don't want to have to rescue you," read a tweet on Sunday. 

On Sunday evening, the Ventura County Sheriff's Office's Sgt. Shannon King confirmed to ET that nothing resulted from authorities widening their search to include the cabins that are a couple miles north of the most Northern end of Lake Piru. King added that it looks to be a tragic drowning and that there was no evidence that Rivera ever left the lake.

Rivera's latest social media post was about her son:

On Wednesday, Rivera shared a sweet picture on Instagram of her giving Josey a kiss.

"Just the two of us," she wrote.

View this post on Instagram

just the two of us

A post shared by Naya Rivera (@nayarivera) on

In a 2016 interview with ET, Rivera opened up about how motherhood had become her No. 1 priority.

"I'm a mom now, and what I love more than acting is being Josey's mom. So, I want to be here for him. And I don't want to miss anything," she said at the time. "I'm going to navigate the right way to do that."

On July 2, Rivera tweeted, "No matter the year, circumstance, or strifes everyday you're alive is a blessing. make the most of today and every day you are given. tomorrow is not promised."

Some fans have pointed out the multiple tragedies the Glee cast has been through:

Rivera played cheerleader Santana Lopez on Glee, which ran on Fox from 2009 until 2015. Aside from Rivera, two other main cast members from the beloved show have also died. In 2013, actor Cory Monteith -- who played lovable football player Finn Hudson -- died of a drug overdose. He was 31 years old.

In 2018, Mark Salling -- who played football player "Puck" on the show and whom Rivera once dated -- was found dead while awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography. He was 35 years old.

Some of Rivera's Glee co-stars took to social media on Monday to mourn her tragic death, including Chris Colfer and Jane Lynch.

For a look back at Rivera's most memorable Glee moments, watch the video below.

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