ABOVE PHOTO: Naya Rivera (Editorial credit: DFree / Shutterstock.com)
By Andrew Dalton
LOS ANGELES — “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 onto 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.
The boy, 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 floating near the surface early 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.
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.
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.
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.
“It has been an extremely difficult time for her family throughout this ordeal,” Ayub said “We share in their grief.”
Rivera played singing cheerleader Santana Lopez for six seasons from 2009 to 2015 on the Fox musical-comedy “Glee.”
She is the third major cast member from the show to die in their 30s.
The announcement of her death comes seven years to the day after co-star Cory Monteith died at 31 from a toxic mix of alcohol and heroin, with the series losing one of its leads while it was still on the air.