“Glee” star Naya Rivera’s 4-year-old son told investigators that his mother, whose body was found in a Southern California lake Monday, boosted him back on to the deck of their rented boat before he looked back and saw her disappearing under the water, authorities said.
“She must have mustered enough energy to get her son back on the boat, but not enough to save herself,” Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub said at a news conference Monday.
"Her son described being helped into the boat by Naya, who boosted him onto the deck from behind,” Ayub said. “He told investigators that he looked back and saw her disappear under the surface of the water.”
The child, Josey Hollis Dorsey, was found asleep and alone in a life vest on the drifting pontoon boat about three hours after they launched on Lake Piru northwest of Los Angeles, setting off a five-day search that ended with the discovery of the body of the 33-year-old actress floating near the surface about 9:10 a.m. Monday, authorities said.
The mother and son had gone swimming, which was permitted in that part of the lake, Ayub said. She was not wearing a life vest.
“There are a lot of currents on the lake that appear particularly in the afternoon. We believe it was midafternoon when she disappeared,” Ayub said. “The idea perhaps being that the boat started drifting, it was unanchored. And that she mustered enough energy to get her son back onto the boat, but not enough to save herself.”
Authorities believe that Rivera drowned accidentally, and that her body was most likely trapped in the vegetation under the lake for several days before floating to the top, Ayub said.
The body was taken to the Ventura County medical examiner’s office, where an autopsy was to be performed and a positive identification would officially be made using dental records, officials said.
Divers had already thoroughly searched the area where she was eventually found, but shrubbery that had grown wildly in the area, which was recently dry, must have kept her hidden in the murky water.
“That particular area, when it was searched by divers, they were literally crawling on hands and knees at the bottom of the lake attached by ropes so they could make their way back out because visibility is so poor,” Buschow said. “That gives you kind of an idea of what the conditions were like.”
Family members chatted with Rivera via FaceTime when she was on the boat, and search crews watched those videos for clues to where she might have gone down, Ayub said.