Valencia native, ‘Glee’ actress believed to have drowned at Lake Piru

Actress Naya Rivera on the Glee panel at the 2010 San Diego Comic Con in San Diego, California. Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

Valencia native and “Glee” actress Naya Rivera, 33, is believed to have drowned, after her child was found alone on a boat in Lake Piru on Wednesday afternoon. 

Nearly 100 personnel from multiple government agencies, including divers and aircraft, continued the search for Rivera throughout the day Thursday but had not found her by nightfall past 8 p.m. 

“A boater out on the lake discovered the boat drifting with (Rivera’s son) on board, asleep,” said Capt. Eric Buschow of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department. “So they contacted the rangers and began searching for the mother. Since that time, we have both aerial search going on and our dive team out here, as well.” 

Rivera’s son told officials that he and his mother had been out swimming on the lake, using a boat that they had rented from a Lake Piru vendor, officials said. They added later that Rivera was familiar with the lake and that her boat with her son in it was found in the northern area of the lake by one of the boat vendor’s employees shortly after 4 p.m. 

“We searched until 10 p.m., and then we discontinued our search efforts just because it’s too dark, you can’t dive in the dark,” said Capt. Dean Worthy of the Fillmore Sheriff’s Station, at approximately 11:55 p.m. Wednesday. “We have to wait until first light to get back out there and then we’re going to launch an even bigger search operation tomorrow.” 

Worthy said Thursday’s operation would be a multi-agency endeavor with multiple dive teams. He confirmed they were searching for the “Glee” actress. 

In the early morning hours Thursday, Ventura County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Deputy Chris Dyer said the operation was switching from a search-and-rescue operation to a search-and-recovery operation, on the presumption Rivera has died. 

“That doesn’t change anything and the efforts we’re putting forth to locate her,” said Dyer during a news conference held at 8 a.m. near the lake. “But that changes the kind of title in a sense: we’re presuming that an accident happened and that she drowned in the lake.” 

Dyer emphasized during the news conference there were no signs of foul play and that it was a “tragic accident.” 

“The goal is to bring Ms. Rivera home to her family so they can have some closure,” said Dyer.

During a Thursday afternoon news conference, law enforcement officials stated they recovered video evidence from the dock showing Rivera and her son as the only two people getting on the boat, and that while her son was found on the boat wearing a life jacket, Rivera’s life jacket remained on board.

Law enforcement officials added that, after speaking with Rivera’s son, and examining the already discovered evidence, they’ve had no indication that the 33-year-old made it back to the shore. 

The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office later released security camera footage from the Lake Piru launch area, which showed Rivera and her son arriving and later renting the pontoon boat. 

Rivera, in addition to her work on “Glee,” is known as an actress, singer and model who has had roles on “The Royal Family,” “Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” “Even Stevens,” “8 Simple Rules” and “CSI: Miami.” 

Rivera graduated from Valencia High School in 2005. 

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