ET spoke with Captain Jeremy Paris on Thursday about the efforts to find Naya Rivera and giving her family closure.
ET spoke with Captain Jeremy Paris on Thursday about the efforts to find Naya Rivera after the actress went missing on July 8 while taking a boat ride in Lake Piru with her 4-year-old son, Josey. After an exhaustive search, police announced on Monday that Rivera's body was found in the lake, and that the cause of death was drowning by accident.
Paris works for the Ventura County Sheriff's Office and oversees their aviation and search and rescue units. He told ET's Kevin Frazier that while they can only speculate on Rivera's final moments, they do know certain facts.
"We know that she was out with her 4-year-old boy and she was swimming," Paris says. "We know he was wearing a life vest and she wasn't. We know that she was able to, and she did, assist him onto the boat. And then for some unknown reason -- and I don't think we will ever know -- she was not able to get on the boat herself."
He did shut down speculation that she got caught in a riptide.
"There really are no riptides there," he says. "There are currents -- wind-driven currents -- that really affect the surface of the water. Pontoon boats ride really high on the water, so think of something sitting very high in the water, very susceptible to bobbing up and down. They also have a very wide side profile so when winds are picking up, they can really push that boat quickly. So, we have factors of wind with the boat being pushed away from a swimmer, we have wave action that can cause that boat to bob up and down making it difficult to get on and then we have underwater hazards that can, you know, snag feet underneath you, so that's what I know kind of what the hazards are."
"There's no whirlpools there, there's no what we call riptides like you see at the ocean, that's not what's occurring," he continues. "It's really just this wind-driven kind of surface action that we see there."
As for speculation that the boat ended up getting away from Rivera, he shares, "Yeah .. we know it was found quite aways away from where she drowned. We do know that and we suspected from the very beginning."
Paris said the search for Rivera began immediately at 4 p.m. on July 8, when Rivera failed to return the boat at the time she was scheduled to.
"And I can only imagine what the 4-year-old was going through alone on the boat out on the lake," he says. "That boat was found about 4:30 in a cove at the far north end, an area they call the narrows. We believe it was pushed by the wind. The rangers and the boat staff took all of their employees and went out searching for her. They searched both in the water and the shore. ... Our helicopter was launched immediately as soon as this call came."
Paris had been in constant contact with Rivera's family throughout the search, whom he called "phenomenal" and "amazing people." He also shared that members of the Glee cast were there when Rivera's body was found.
"As a matter of fact, I was speaking with the cast down at the shore at the harbor when I was tapped on the shoulder and [was told] that they just located her," he shares.
"I, on the searches, I make it a point to go meet the families," he adds. "It helps me stay focused. It helps me motivate the team to stay focused and continue on the task. I know they need closure. They're not going to be able to move on in the grief process until she's found. And it's important for us to get that closure for them. And again, I can't say how wonderful the family was to deal with. It was really inspirational to see them deal with this tragedy in the way that they did."
Paris said they were able to take Rivera's family to the exact spot where her body was found to give them closure.
"They are great people and we all feel for them and hope they can find some comfort in that she's been found," he says. "We did make an effort to make sure the family got to go out and see exactly where she was found so in the future they'll be able to memorialize her, remember her, in any way they see fit in the future."
As for Josey, Paris said the family said he is doing OK.
"So, I met Josey ... and I think he was still in a state of kind of not sure what happened," he recalls. "He did not come out to the scene afterwards which was probably best. From speaking with the family, he's doing OK."
Later, Paris said that he didn't have a definitive answer on whether or not people should be allowed to swim in Lake Piru. He did note that wearing a life vest would have greatly increased Rivera's chances of survival.
"I think wearing life vests is always important," he stresses. "There's different kinds of conditions, you know, when it's windy and choppy, it's probably not a good idea to swim. ... I'll tell you this, that lake hasn't had an accidental drowning since 2010, which is fairly rare. That's a pretty good safety record. Unfortunately, it turned out bad this time."
He definitely did not believe Rivera was taking a reckless risk when taking Josey out for a boat ride.
"We all take risks every day and, you know, it's a risk that was taken and in this case it turned out bad," he says. "I mean, there's parents every day taking their kids out. I know she had been to that lake a lot as a child and she wanted to give her kid the same experience ... I think that's a neat thing, a neat tradition she wanted to show her own son. I don't think she'd been there in a while but as a child, she'd been there numerous times."
Rivera's family spoke out about the devastating loss of the actress on Wednesday in a statement and thanked police for their efforts.
"We are so grateful for the outpouring of love and prayers for Naya, Josey and our family over the past week," the statement reads. "While we grieve the loss of our beautiful legend, we are blessed to honor her everlasting legacy and magnetic spirit. Naya was an amazing talent, but was an even greater person, mother, daughter and sister. Thank you to the men and women of the Ventura, Tulare, and San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Departments for your commitment and unwavering effort to find Naya. We extend endless gratitude and ovation to the heroine who found her. Thank you to her friends, colleagues, and fans for your continuous support."
"Heaven gained our sassy angel," the statement continues. "We kindly request that our privacy be respected during this very difficult time."
Meanwhile, Rivera's Glee co-stars have also shared emotional tributes to her. Watch the video for more: