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Body of 'Glee' actress Naya Rivera found at Lake Piru in California, authorities believe

Rivera had been boating with her 4-year-old son at the lake Wednesday afternoon when she went missing.
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Authorities are confident they have found the body of actress Naya Rivera at Lake Piru in California, five days after she went missing during a boating trip with her son, the Ventura County Sheriff's Office said Monday.

An official identification is dependent on an examination of dental records, Sheriff Bill Ayub said during an afternoon news conference. An autopsy has not been conducted, but authorities have previously said they presume Rivera drowned in the lake.

“Based on the location where the body was found, physical characteristics of the body, clothing found on the body, and the physical condition of the body, as well as the absence of any other persons reported missing in the area, we are confident the body we found is that of Naya Rivera," Ayub said.

Rivera, 33, was boating with her 4-year-old son Wednesday afternoon when she went missing. The boy was found asleep and wearing a life vest late Wednesday afternoon and told investigators that he and his mother went swimming and he got back on the boat, but Rivera did not. Another life jacket was also found in the boat.

Her son described being helped into the boat by his mother from behind, but told investigators that when he looked back, he saw Rivera disappear under the water. Ayub said it was still speculation, but it was possible Rivera got caught in some currents that appear in the lake in the afternoon.

"The idea perhaps being that the boat started drifting, it was unanchored," Ayub said. "And that she mustered enough energy to get her son back onto the boat but not enough to save herself."

The sheriff's office has said Rivera and her son were the only people on the boat she had rented.

In the area where the boat was found, the water was about 30 feet deep, authorities said.

The area where the body was found Monday was between 35 to 60 feet deep, with heavy brush and trees on the lake bed, Ayub said. Search teams had previously looked in that northeastern portion of the lake, but believe the body could have been concealed by the vegetation and brush. Visibility in the water during the day was about eight to 10 inches and there was lots of debris and full-size trees under the water and "varying depths."

Investigators do not believe there were any signs of foul play or a suicide attempt.

On Thursday, the sheriff's office said it was presuming that Rivera drowned in the lake. Deputy Chris Dyer said there were no signs of foul play or anything that went wrong "besides a tragic accident."

Several agencies have assisted in the search on Lake Piru, about 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles, the sheriff's office said.

Rivera married actor Ryan Dorsey in 2014. She gave birth to their son, Josey Hollis, in 2015. The couple finalized their divorce in 2018.

Rivera starred in six seasons of the Fox series “Glee” as cheerleader Santana Lopez. Rivera is the third major cast member from "Glee" to die in their 30s.

Cory Monteith, who played Finn Hudson, died at 31 in 2013 from a toxic mix of alcohol and heroin. Monday also marked the 7-year anniversary of Monteith's death.

Mark Salling, who played Noah Puckerman, died in what appeared to be a suicide in 2018 at 35 after pleading guilty to child pornography charges. Rivera and Salling had dated at one point.

Fellow "Glee" stars paid tribute to Rivera on social media Monday, offering their love and support to her son and family. "How can you summarize a decade of friendship and laughter with words alone? If you were friends with Naya Rivera, you simply can’t," actor Chris Colfer wrote on Instagram. "Her brilliance and humor were unmatched."

Fans began to share their favorite moments from Rivera’s performances on Glee, including her cover of “If I Die Young” by The Band Perry during an episode memorializing Monteith and his character.

Others shared clips of her character singing Taylor Swift's "Mine" to Heather Morris, Rivera's on-screen girlfriend, along with their comments on what it meant to see a lesbian relationship on television.

20th Century Fox released a statement Monday, calling Rivera "a fierce talent with so much more to do."

“We are forever grateful for the indelible contribution she made to GLEE, from the first episode to the last,” the statement said. “Our hearts are broken and our thoughts go out to Naya’s family, friends and young son.”

GLAAD also released a statement on Rivera's death, noting the impact she made in her role as a teenager who came out as a lesbian on "Glee" and her work as an LGBTQ advocate.

"She was a friend of GLAAD and even hosted the GLAAD Media Awards twice," the organization said. "She was kind, gracious, and personally used her platforms and voice to tell LGBTQ youth that they are loved. Our hearts are with her loved ones."

The most recent posts on Rivera's Twitter and Instagram accounts, from July 7 read "just the two of us" along with a photo of her and her son.