Naya Rivera search update: Search for missing 'Glee' actress turns to recovery operation at Ventura County lake

Authorities were searching the waters of Lake Piru a day after Rivera's 4-year-old son was found alone on a rented boat.
LAKE PIRU, Calif. (KABC) -- A search-and-rescue effort has transitioned to a search-and-recovery operation after actress Naya Rivera went missing at Ventura County's Lake Piru and her young son was found alone on a rented boat, authorities announced Thursday morning.

According to the Ventura County Sheriff's Office, the 33-year-old Rivera is presumed dead in a tragic accident after a boating and swimming excursion that began about 1 p.m. Wednesday.

"There's no evidence of foul play at this point," sheriff's Capt. Eric Buschow told reporters at the scene. "This may well be a case of drowning."
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Ventura County Sheriff's Department released surveillance video on Thursday that shows actress Naya Rivera and her son at Lake Piru before her disappearance.


During a news conference on Thursday, officials said surveillance video shows Rivera and her son were the only people on the rented boat when it left shore. Audio from a 911 call was also released.

Authorities do not believe Rivera made it to shore and are focusing their search efforts on the waters of Lake Piru.

Investigators said the former "Glee" star and her 4-year-old son made their way toward the north shore of the lake aboard the pontoon boat and did not return hours later as scheduled.

WATCH: Sheriff's spokesperson gives update on efforts to find missing actress at Lake Piru
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A Ventura County sheriff's spokesman said the search-and-rescue effort for missing actress Naya Rivera has transitioned to a search-and-recovery operation.


A boat-rental employee went out on the water to search for them and found the child alone on the boat, sleeping. He was wearing a life vest, and an adult's vest was found on the watercraft, but his mother was nowhere to be seen.

A multi-agency search was launched, including divers in the water and drones and a helicopter in the air. Searchers temporarily suspended their efforts about 10 p.m. due to hazardous conditions.
Hours after the search resumed by more than 80 personnel on Thursday morning, officials confirmed that Rivera was presumed dead. Sheriff's Deputy Chris Dyer said that did not change the intensity of the recovery operation.

At a brief news conference at the lake, Dyer said Rivera had been familiar with the popular destination for boaters and swimmers, which she had visited several times in the past.

News of the actress' disappearance prompted the launching of a Change.org petition that calls for warning signs to be posted at the lake.

"Naya Rivera is not the first, nor the last to go missing at Lake Piru," the petition says, adding that the body of water is "a very deep lake with very bad whirlpools. People have been asking for years for the city to put up warning signs for swimmers."

The petition, which had more than 6,600 signatures Thursday morning, claims local residents do not visit the lake "for this reason! Tourists have no idea what they're getting into."

Rivera's 4-year-old son is from a marriage with actor Ryan Dorsey. The couple finalized their divorce in June 2018 after nearly four years of marriage.

Rivera played Santana Lopez, a singing cheerleader in the musical-comedy "Glee" that aired on Fox from 2009 until 2015. She appeared in 113 episodes of the series and dated co-star Mark Salling, who died by suicide in 2018 at age 35 after pleading guilty to child pornography charges.

TIMELINE: THE SEARCH FOR NAYA RIVERA


  • 1 p.m.: Actress Naya Rivera rents a flat-bottomed pontoon boat on Wednesday and, along with her 4-year-old son, heads toward the north shore of Lake Piru for a planned three-hour excursion.

  • 4:30 p.m.: After the pair does not return as scheduled, a boat-rental shop employee goes out on the lake to search for them. Rivera's son is found aboard the boat, safe but alone. Authorities are notified and a massive search ensues.

  • 10 p.m.: Search-and-rescue efforts by some 50 personnel are temporarily suspended in the evening due to hazardous conditions, including poor visibility.

  • Overnight: Ventura County sheriff's deputies and searchers from other agencies remain at the scene, monitoring and planning for the operation to resume at first light.

  • Sunrise: The number of people participating in the search -- on boats, ATVs and in the water -- expands to more than 80 on Thursday morning.

  • 8:30 a.m.: A sheriff's spokesman confirms that Rivera is presumed dead in a possible drowning accident. The search transitions to a recovery operation.

  • Noon: Rivera's body remains missing as divers continue to scour the lake amid calm conditions and optimal visibility. Authorities expect winds to pick up around 1 p.m.

  • 3 p.m.: Ventura County Sheriff's Department holds press conference and says surveillance video shows Rivera and her son were the only people on rented boat when it left shore. Search to continue in water.

  • The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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