Naya Rivera, the 33-year-old “Glee” actress who went missing on July 8, was found dead on July 13 when divers discovered her body floating in a lake. A medical examiner listed her cause of death as accidental drowning in an autopsy report released the next day.
Rivera was declared missing after her 4-year-old son, Josey, was found sleeping alone in a rented boat on Lake Piru, California, 55 miles northwest of Los Angeles. An adult life jacket and identification for Rivera were found in the boat. The boat had left the dock just three hours prior.
About an hour after the boat left the dock, Rivera sent a photo of her son to a family member, authorities said.
Officials said Rivera’s car was found in the parking lot of the lake area and that she and her son had experience boating at the lake.
Josey told investigators that his mother had been in the lake without a life jacket and was unable to swim back to the boat.
“We know from speaking with her son that he and Naya swam in the lake together at some point during their journey,” Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub said. “It was during that time that her son described being helped into the boat by Naya, who boosted him onto the deck from behind. He told investigators that he looked back and saw her disappear under the surface of the water.”
Dozens of divers were dispatched to the lake to search for the actress over the course of six days. Officials said visibility in the lake was extremely poor, mostly due to vegetation near the bottom of the lake. After Rivera was found, Ayub said officials believe her body was tangled in the shrubbery for days before she floated to the water’s surface.
Ayub said a strong current likely led to Rivera’s death.
“There are a lot of currents on the lake that appear particularly in the afternoon,” he said. “We believe it was midafternoon when she disappeared. The idea perhaps being that the boat started drifting, it was unanchored, and that she mustered enough energy to get her son back into the boat, but not enough to save herself.”
Robert Inglis of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Team is one of the divers who searched for Rivera.
Before her body was found, he suggested something similar to what Ayub described.
“What I suspect is that the winds kicked up. Those pontoon boats are very light, and when you push them, it can get away from you,” Inglis said. “She might’ve tried to swim after the boat. But that’s all speculation.”
Inglis said whether or not a person is wearing a life vest can make a big difference.
“The best thing that we can say that contributes to a lot of the drownings is when people go swimming and they are not wearing their life vests. And they jumped off the boat,” Inglis told Us Magazine in an interview. “It doesn’t take much to get exhausted if you’re not in shape. Winds do kick up at that lake, and the boats start to get away and you are trying to go after that boat … you could get a leg cramp. If you are wearing a life vest, you could rest and someone can go back and pick you up, or call for help or something like that.”
Despite some speculations that Rivera might have committed suicide, authorities said there were no indications of suicide or foul play. There was no evidence that drugs or alcohol were involved in the actress’s death, The Los Angeles Times reported.