Hollywood 2020: Body Found in Search at California Lake Where ‘Glee’ Star Naya Rivera Went Missing

Body Found in Search at California Lake Where ‘Glee’ Star Naya Rivera Went Missing


Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic
Naya Rivera

A body was recovered Monday at Lake Piru in Southern California, the site where Glee actress Naya Rivera went missing last Wednesday while boating with her 4-year-old son.

Divers recovered the body around 9:30 a.m., according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department. Authorities resumed searching the lake in the early morning hours; the previous days’ searches called off due to poor lighting conditions. No official identity was given. The Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office will release the name after the next of kin has been notified. A press conference is scheduled for 2 p.m.

Lake Piru in Southern California remains closed to the public. Dive teams from throughout the region were assisting the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department through mutual aid. The California Office of Emergency Services and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department were involved in the investigation as well as Tulare County and San Luis Obispo County’s sheriff’s office. The main focus of the search area is the north and east side of the lake, authorities have said.

Authorities say they believe Rivera drowned in Lake Piru while boating with her 4-year-old son on Wednesday. Calling it a “tragic accident,” authorities have expressed their condolences to the family and fans.

On Thursday, the focus of the investigation shifted to a recovery operation. Teams of divers and other recuse workers totaling 100 personnel searched the lake as best they could all day given the poor visibility conditions. The lake has a number of impediments, such as tree roots, which authorities said made the search slow and difficult. Authorities noted Friday fewer divers were being used in place of sophisticated sonar equipment to help in the investigation due to the vast impediments and poor visibility under the water. Of Thursday’s search, divers described visibility as that of one to two feet, with divers having to dig through tree branches and a heavy brush bottom.

A 911 call from the rental facility and CCTV footage was released Thursday, and sheriff’s officials said video of the underwater search would also be released to show the difficult conditions. Authorities have remained in constant contact with the family, providing updates and hoping they can soon offer closure.

The footage shows a recording from the boat launch at the time when Rivera and her son arrived to rent a pontoon boat. The video captures them departing the dock and traveling north in the lake.

The 33-year-old rented a boat and went for an excursion with her son at 1 p.m. Wednesday, July 8. The rental boat was supposed to be returned at 4 p.m. When the actress didn’t return, employees operating the rental stand went out to look and that’s when they found her son, alone in the boat. Authorities noted a lifejacket was found in the boat. The boy was wearing his lifejacket when the boat was located.

Rivera’s son, whose father is Ryan Dorsey, was reported to be unharmed. The boy told investigators that he and his mother had been swimming in the lake, and he got back in the boat, but Rivera did not.

“Multiple teams of professional search & rescue personnel are actively searching Lake Piru for clues to the location of Naya Rivera. With over 80 people involved in the search right now, we are using helicopters, boats, ATV vehicles, and ground personnel to try and locate her,” the sheriff’s department said via Twitter around 10:30 a.m. Thursday. “We have mutual aid for specialized dive teams en route from Los Angeles County, San Luis Obispo County, and Tulare County. We will keep you posted with any updates as we learn them. Our hearts and prayers go out the all of the family and friends of the Rivera family.”

Lake Piru is located in Ventura County, California, in the Los Padres National Forest, more than 50 miles north of Los Angeles.

Rivera has been an actress since her youth, first appearing in several TV commercials before she moved on to television series and film. She kicked off her career at age 4 on CBS’ short-lived comedy Royal Family, but her breakthrough and most notable role was Santana Lopez on Fox’s musical comedy series Glee. She started out in a recurring guest role as Santana before being promoted to the full-time cast a year later.

Her character became a fan favorite when fans picked up on the natural chemistry between Lopez and ditzy fellow cheerleader Brittany, played by dancer Heather Morris, onscreen. The couple would become icons for lesbian representation on television as Rivera rocketed to stardom as the show’s popularity soared.

As the show gained momentum, many of the castmembers also planned out their solo music careers. In 2011, Rivera signed as a solo artist with Columbia Records — the label behind the show’s soundtracks — and released her first single, “Sorry,” which featured rapper Big Sean.

In 2016, Rivera released a tell-all memoir titled Sorry Not Sorry: Dreams, Mistakes and Growing Up, in which she recounted her career and her time on Glee. 

After Glee, Rivera had a recurring role on the Lifetime series Devious Maids. She most recently starred opposite Ne-Yo on the TV version of Step Up, which recently moved from YouTube to Starz for its second season. On Step Up, Rivera played Collette Jones, an administrator at the show’s High Water Performing Arts School.