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Naya Rivera Confirmed Dead at 33 in Drowning Accident at Calif. Lake

Naya Rivera

A massive search had been under way since the Glee star was discovered missing last Wednesday. 


After nearly a week of searching for Naya Rivera, who went missing at Lake Piru in Ventura County, Calif., the sheriff's department there has confirmed that a body found on Monday is that of the 33-year-old actress. The Ventura County Sheriff's Dept. confirmed the grim news at a press conference Monday.

"We are confident the body found is of Naya Rivera," sheriff's office personnel said, according to Entertainment Tonight. The body will now go to the coroner's office, which will make an identification via dental records.

The actress who played the groundbreaking lesbian character Santana Lopez on Glee had been on a pontoon at Lake Piru with her 4-year-old son before she went missing last Wednesday. Her son was discovered sleeping alone on the rented boat after it was not returned on time. He later told investigators that he and his mother had been swimming but that she never got back on the boat. An adult-sized life vest was found on the boat, according to the sheriff's dept.

Amid an outpouring of concern and well wishes for her safe return on social media, the search for Rivera has been ongoing for nearly a week. By Thursday, the search was deemed a "recovery mission."

Those working to find Rivera in the lake were able to narrow down the search over the weekend when it was discovered that she had sent a photo to a family member taken in a cove with a timestamp taken between 90 minutes and two hours of when her son, Josey, was found alone on the pontoon.

"There was a picture sent to a family member that showed the boy on the boat by a cove," Robert Inglis of the Ventura County Sheriff's Search & Rescue Team told Us Weekly. "We found where that cove was."

Throughout the search, a team has deployed sonar to assess various parts of the lake before sending divers into the murky water that is loaded with trees and brush in some areas, according to Inglis.

On Sunday, Heather Morris, who played Santana's girlfriend and eventual wife, Brittany, on Glee, tweeted with an offer to help in the search for her friend.

Cast members from Glee had joined in the search for their friend and former colleague as evidenced by photos of them with Rivera's family.

Rivera began her career as a child actor. Her first TV series was The Royal Family with Della Reese, Laranz Tate, Redd Foxx, and Jackee Harry. She also costarred in The Bernie Mac Show before landing her role as Santana, which she played from 2009-15. Following Glee, she starred in Devious Maids and Step Up: High Water.

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Tracy E. Gilchrist