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Sheriff: Body found at Lake Piru confirmed to be Naya Rivera

Searchers come back to dock as they cruise past a pontoon boat with caution tape attached as they conclude the search for the day for actress Naya Rivera at Lake Piru on Thursday, July 09, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office announced Monday search teams recovered a body at Lake Piru that was confirmed to be Valencia native and “Glee” actress Naya Rivera. 

“Based on the location where the body was found, physical characteristics of the body, clothing found on the body and the physical condition of the body, as well as the absence of any other persons reported missing in the area, we are confident the body found is that of Naya Rivera,” said Ventura County Sheriff William Ayub during a news conference at the lake. 

The body, which was found floating on the surface of the water, was recovered around 9:10 a.m. Monday, authorities said. 

Detectives from the Ventura sheriff’s major crimes bureau reported that there was no indication of foul play or suicide. Rivera’s body was taken to the Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy, said Ayub. 

Rivera, 33, was reported missing July 8 after a boat she rented was located on the north end of the lake after the scheduled return time. Her 4-year-old son was found asleep in their rented boat, wearing a life vest and wrapped in a towel. 

Based on interviews with the boy, detectives learned that the mother and son had gone swimming on the lake at one point during their journey and, upon returning to their boat, which was not anchored, the boy was helped back into the boat, according to Ayub. 

“He told investigators that he looked back and saw her disappear under the surface of the water,” said the sheriff. 

Monday’s announcement comes after a dayslong search, described by Ayub as “methodical and comprehensive,” that included dozens of personnel, watercraft, helicopters and unmanned aerial systems from multiple agencies, including the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, CalOES and the U.S. Coast Guard. 

Part of what made the search a difficult one was the heavy brush and trees that had grown 15 to 20 feet in height and remained as the lake filled up. 

“When the lake refilled with water, that growth remained and made it very very difficult for divers, our sonar operators to search that area,” said Ayub. 

Crews had also searched cabins and outbuildings in the surrounding area and the shoreline multiple times. 

The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office has been in contact with Rivera’s family and friends, updating them on the progress of the search efforts, authorities said. 

“As fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, our hearts are with them and we share their grief for Naya’s loss,” said Ayub. 

Sheriff’s officials said Monday that swimming on Lake Piru is not prohibited but Ayub said he personally does not recommend doing so, considering dangers of whirlpools and heavy brush. 

A petition, which has garnered more than 33,400 signatures as of Monday, calls for the placement of warning signs for swimmers at the lake and reports that Rivera is not the first person to go missing due to “very bad whirlpools.” 

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