THE family of Naya Rivera, the Glee star who drowned in a tragic boating accident, has paid tribute to the 33-year-old, describing her as a "beautiful legend".
"Heaven gained our sassy angel," the statement read. "While we grieve the loss of our beautiful legend, we are blessed to honor her everlasting legacy and magnetic spirit. Naya was an amazing talent, but was an even greater person, mother, daughter and sister."
Rivera was found dead on Monday, July 13, at Lake Piru in California concluding a five-day search.
Ventura County Medical Examiner's Office confirmed Naya's identity using dental records.
Speaking at a news conference, Ayub said Naya's body was found in the northeastern portion of the lake – which is 60 ft deep – and an "empty canyon" of growth.
"We believe she was concealed within some of the shrubbery on the floor bed of the lake," Ayub said, adding that investigators didn't believe any foul play was involved.
The 33-year-old actress and her four-year-old son, Josey, swam in Lake Piru together before she drowned.
Josey told police his mother "boosted him onto the deck of their rental boat from behind" before he "saw her disappear under the surface of the water" after they had climbed off the back of the boat and gone swimming.
Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub said that Naya "must have mustered enough energy to get her son back on the boat, but not enough to save herself."
Her family added: "Thank you to the men and women of the Ventura, Tulare, and San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Departments for your commitment and unwavering effort to find Naya. We extend endless gratitude and ovation to the heroine who found her. Thank you to her friends, colleagues, and fans for your continuous support."
Rivera's autopsy revealed the star drowned and had no signs of drugs or alcohol when she died.
The report confirmed that Naya's body showed evidence of accidental drowning and her condition was consistent with the time authorities believe she died.
“There is no indication from the investigation or examination that drugs or alcohol played a role in the decedent’s death, but specimens will be submitted for toxicology testing", the report said.
Josey was found asleep in his life jacket on their pontoon, but there was no trace of the 33-year-old actress.
A woman called emergency services after her husband discovered the four-year-old, mistakenly identified as a girl.
In the call – which was released to the public by police on July 8 – the woman is heard saying: "The emergency is we found a little girl in a boat all by herself and her mom is nowhere to be found."
Josey is now safe with family members.
The announcement of Naya's death came as Rivera's family and former Glee castmates gathered at the lake to support each other following the tragic discovery.
ABC7 Eyewitness News shared a heartbreaking image of her loved ones standing hand-in-hand at the dock before the announcement that a body was found.
Rivera's family reportedly looked out at the water and held each other.
"This hits home for everybody involved," Buschow said.
"Hopefully this provides some level of closure, whatever that means, for the family."
Naya thought of the lake as her "sanctuary", as she had grown up 20 miles away, despite it being known for rip currents and icy waters that can overpower swimmers.
She had taken a photograph of her son on the boat and sent it to relatives just 90 minutes before Josey was found alone on the boat.
What's more, two days before Naya went missing, she posted a heartbreaking final picture of her and Josey with the words “just the two of us."
just the two of us
A post shared byNaya Rivera (@nayarivera) on
Naya Rivera starred in 113 episodes of the hit musical series Glee from 2009 to 2015.
Her body was found exactly seven years to the day that her co-star Cory Monteith died in a hotel room in Vancouver.
Cory Monteith died at 31 in 2013 from a toxic mix of alcohol and heroin, while his co-star Mark Salling – who Rivera dated at one point – killed himself in 2018 at 35 after pleading guilty to child pornography charges.
In 2014, Naya met American actor Ryan Dorsey and later married him in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico on July 19 that same year.
Ryan starred in Vampire Diaries, Ray Donovan, and Shameless.
Their marriage lasted for four years as they filed for divorce in 2018.
The couple has one child together, Josey Hollis Dorsey.
Josey was born on September 17, 2015 – making him four years old at the time of his mother's death
The lake where Naya went missing in is notorious for deadly rip currents, chilly water, and sudden huge waves.
Lake Piru is a 1,200-acre reservoir with a 12-mile shoreline. There have been a number of drownings over the years, making the lake as hazardous as the ocean.
The lake holds deep columns of chilly water that can overwhelm people, the LA Times reported.
Steve White, one time Ventura State Beach lifeguard supervisor, described the perils of the lake, with novice swimmers particularly at risk of drowning.
“Someone will come to the beach, maybe wade out a little, step into a deeper hole or get picked up in a rip current and they begin to panic,” he said.
The cool temperatures, large waves and rip currents can all work in concert to rob even the strongest swimmer of energy.
Strong winds on Lake Piru also often whip up waves that can rock a small boat enough to tip an unsteady fisherman into the water.
Most of those who die are inexperienced swimmers who are not wearing life jackets and who overestimate their own abilities or swim in prohibited areas.
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