California lake search for Naya Rivera is now a recovery mission as it’s revealed she’d been visiting the beauty spot for years and considered it her ‘sanctuary’ despite its reputation for rip currents and being full of debris
The search and rescue mission for Naya Rivera is now being considered a recovery operation, police said on Thursday, a day after she vanished from the California lake where she’d been boating with her four-year-old son.
The 33-year-old actress – best known for her role in Glee – vanished on Wednesday while on Lake Piru with her four-year-old son Josey.
Josey told police that she’d ‘jumped’ into the water to go swimming and never came back. He was found asleep on their drifting boat.
As search and rescue teams searched the lake on Thursday, local sheriffs gave grim details about the lake.
Ventura County Deputy Sheriff Chris Dyer said on Thursday that Lake Piru was a ‘sanctuary’ for Naya, she was familiar with the lake and has been going there for years.
Initially, police had hoped to find the actress alive and were searching the expansive shoreline as well as in the water.
Now though, they say the mission is a recovery operation.
‘There’s no evidence of foul play at this point. This may well be a case of drowning,’ sheriff’s Capt. Eric Buschow said.
He said it was an employee who works at the boat shack who found the boat and the child in the north part of the lake.
‘My indication is that the child was found sleeping on the boat,’ he said at a press conference near the lake Thursday.
‘I’ve been told Naya Rivera has been coming here for years and she is familiar with the lake. This might be a little sanctuary for her, especially on a Wednesday – no one’s here on a Wednesday so it’s a good day to come. She rented the boat.’
Deputy Sheriff Dyer said all signs point to it being a horrible accident.
‘There was no collision or signs of struggle,’ he said. ‘We are using our helicopters, we are using our dive teams, we are using sonar equipment and our unmanned aerial drone team.
‘It’s extremely difficult to search this lake, it goes from depths of 40ft to 5ft.
‘Visibility in the daytime is 8 to 10 inches. At nighttime it’s zero. Everywhere you see a buoy on the lake is a low part.
‘There’s full-grown trees and debris under the lake. It’s been a couple years since someone drowned here in Lake Piru, that an accident’s happened in the lake, but it has happened before,’ he said. Advertisement
He added that wind ‘plays a big part’ on the lake because it pushes debris around.
‘This is also a dammed lake, so there is a drain that when open can pull things toward it too. There’s a lot of different variables here, it’s not like the ocean but there definitely is a life to the lake.
‘It’s not just still or stagnant.
‘This is the third lake in a chain of lakes, there’s two other lakes in LA county and they spill into each other.
‘They are connected with waterways, you have Lake Castaic and Lake Pyramid and Lake Piru, which is man made.’
Rivera had shared a poignant picture of herself and Josey just a day before her disappearance, with the caption ‘Just the two of us’, in a post which has since attracted an outpouring of sympathy and prayers.
In recent weeks, her social media has been full of posts of the pair at home. Last week, she shared a selfie about appreciating life, writing: ‘No matter the year, circumstance, or strifes everyday you’re alive is a blessing. Make the most of today and every day you are given. Tomorrow is not promised.’
Divers and helicopters were scouring the reservoir until darkness fell last night and on Thursday morning, they returned to the lake at daybreak.
At least eight other people have drowned in the lake since 1994, including a father who died in 2008 after saving his daughter who’d fallen in to the water.
He was able to get her back onto their boat before it drifted away and he died.
Some are holding out hope that Rivera will be found alive.
Demi Lovato was among the celebrities to hold out hope last night, asking her 87million Instagram followers to ‘pray for Naya Rivera to be found safe and sound’.
Rivera’s former Glee co-star Heather Morris said: ‘We need all the prayers we can get to bring our Naya back to us… we need your love and light.’
Glee cast member Harry Shum Jr, who played Mike Chang, simply wrote ‘Praying’, while Iqbal Theba (Principal Figgins) and Max Adler (David Karofsky) have also posted concerned messages on social media.
Rivera’s ex-fiancee Big Sean signalled his concern this morning by liking a series of tweets praying for her safety and demanding that the search for her should continue.
Zack Teperman, a publicist who said Rivera was ‘one of the first people I had the honor of working with’, said he was ‘in complete disbelief and shock right now’.
‘Was just messaging Naya a few weeks back. This can’t be true. Prayers for her little boy,’ he said last night.
Reports say that some of Rivera’s possessions including a purse, wallet and food were found on the boat. Another purse is said to have been left in Rivera’s car, a Mercedes G-Wagon which was still in the parking lot.
Eric Buschow, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, told reporters that Rivera and her son were seen going out on the lake at around 1pm.
‘Approximately three hours after they left the dock another boater out on the lake discovered the boat drifting with the [son] on board asleep,’ they said.
‘So they contacted the rangers and began an investigation and we’ve been actively searching for the mother since that time. We have both aerial search going on and our dive team as well.
‘Indications are that we believe she did go in the lake. At this point it’s still a search and that’s what we know up to this point.
‘The [son] said that he had been swimming with his mother and that she got back in the boat and her mum didn’t. ‘We know that the [boy] had a life vest on, there was another adult life vest found on the boat.