(LOS ANGELES) — Actress Naya Rivera, known for playing fan-favorite character Santana Lopez on the hit musical comedy Glee, has been confirmed dead after she went missing while boating on Lake Piru [PY-roo] in California last Wednesday. She was 33.

Concluding a nearly week-long search, the Ventura County Sheriff’s department announced her body was recovered from the lake on Monday morning. “We are confident the body we found is that of Naya Rivera,” said Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub.

The body will be transported to the medical examiner’s office where a formal autopsy will be performed. Authorities say all signs point to her death being a tragic accident.

The sad discovery also comes on the seventh anniversary of the death of Rivera’s former Glee co-star, Corey Monteith, who died of an accidental drug overdose on July 13, 2013 at age 31.

Rivera disappeared Wednesday afternoon, July 8 after renting a boat and taking her four-year-old son, Josey Dorsey, out on the lake, located just north of Los Angeles.  Later that day, boaters came across her young son floating alone on the vessel, which prompted an extensive search-and-rescue effort.

Ventura County Sheriff’s Department personnel scoured the lake for the actress until Wednesday night, then resumed the search the next day.  As the hours ticked by, officials announced their efforts had officially transitioned from search and rescue to search and recovery.

Josey was wearing a life vest when he was discovered alone on the boat. An adult life vest was also found in the craft.  The child told officials he’d gone swimming with his mother. He said he was boosted back onto the boat by his mom, but looked back and saw her disappear under the water. Officials believe Rivera mustered enough strength to get her son back on the boat, but not herself.

Although the actress is best known for her work on Glee, Rivera’s acting career began when she was an infant.  She landed her first job when she was a baby, appearing in a national Kmart commercial campaign.  At the age of four, she went on to star as Hillary Winston in the short-lived sitcom The Royal Family, for which she received a Young Artist Award nomination. 

Before finding mainstream success in 2009 when she was cast as Santana Lopez on Glee, Rivera appeared as a recurring character on The Bernie Mac show, and also appeared on 8 Simple Rules and CSI: Miami, as well as in the 2002 movie Master of Disguise.

After being cast in Glee, Rivera appeared in films including the 2014 thriller At the Devil’s Door and in the comedy Mad Families.  When Glee ended in 2015 after six seasons, Rivera joined the third season of the Lifetime drama Devious Maids.  Her last acting role came in 2018 when she joined the YouTube Red series Step Up: High Water as school administrator Collette Jones.

During her time on Glee, Rivera embarked on a brief music career and signed with Columbia Records.  Following the anemic success of her 2013 first single, “Sorry,” which featured rapper and then-boyfriend Big Sean, Columbia and the actress parted ways.

Rivera also penned a personal memoir in 2016, titled Sorry Not Sorry: Dreams, Mistakes, and Growing Up.

Naya Rivera leaves behind her son, Josey, whom she shares with ex-husband Ryan Dorsey.


By Megan Stone and Andrea Tuccillo
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