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Naya Rivera Presumed Dead After Apparent Drowning In California Reservoir; Police Say It’s Possible Her Body Can’t Be Recovered

It has now been days since Naya Rivera was reported missing on July 8 after her 4-year-old son Josey Dorsey was found alone on a pontoon boat she had rented for the two of them at Lake Piru in Ventura County, California. Authorities believe the actress has drowned. She is now presumed dead, and searchers say they might not be able to recover her body.

In a news conference held Thursday, July 9, Ventura County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Kevin Donoghue gave an update on Rivera and explained why recovering her body is so challenging.

Police say that Naya Rivera is presumed dead after what is thought to be her drowning in Lake Piru, located in Ventura County, California. (Photo: Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic via Getty Images)

“In that area, there’s a lot of trees, plants and such that are under the water that can cause entanglements,” he said about the lake. “It makes it unsafe for the divers and it makes it a more complicated search. … If the body is entangled in some way it may not come back up.”

Rivera, 33, rented the boat for three hours around 1 p.m. on Wednesday and swam with Josey. But when the boat was 30 minutes late to return, staff members located it on the reservoir’s north side and found Josey sleeping aboard. They called 911 afterward.

A search-and-rescue operation quickly followed, which turned into a recovery mission one day later. As for Josey, Donoghue said he’s doing “good as can be expected” and is now with his family. TMZ reports that the boy told authorities his mother jumped into the water and didn’t resurface.

Donoghue also said police are confident that Rivera’s body is still in the water, which has a maximum depth of 130 feet, since emergency responders saw no signs that she made it to shore, such as footprints or personal items that were left behind. Rivera’s SUV was spotted in Lake Piru’s parking lot, and her purse and identification were found on the boat.

Donoghue explained they’re now looking at credit card statements as part of their investigation, to ensure there haven’t been any charges made since the search began. But the main focus of their investigation is still at the lake.

“Our hearts, our prayers and thoughts go out to the Rivera family,” said Donoghue. “This is a terrible tragedy for all of them and we hope to bring closure for that family.”

Rivera became a household name after playing Santana Lopez on the Fox series “Glee” from 2009 to 2015. But her acting career stretches back to the early ’90s when she played in “The Royal Family,” a CBS sitcom that starred Redd Foxx and Della Reese.

Jackée Harry also played on that show and she reacted to Rivera’s disappearance on Twitter on Wednesday, July 8.

“Prayers up for the lovely Naya Rivera,” wrote Harry. “We starred alongside one another in her first very television series, ‘The Royal Family,’ and I’ve watched her career blossom ever since. Please God, don’t cut this life short.”

Actress Yvette Nicole Brown is another person who sent a Twitter message and wrote, “Dear God… Please pray for Naya and her son. I pray she is found okay.”

Rivera was engaged to rapper Big Sean before they split in 2014. He liked a couple of posts that asked people to pray for his ex’s safe return.

Josey was born when the actress was married to Ryan Dorsey. The couple divorced in 2018.

At the news conference, Donoghue said there are 80 people who are “actively involved in the search” for Rivera, including divers and helicopter pilots.

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