The search for “Glee” actress and singer Naya Rivera was expected to resume at daybreak Friday, hours after California authorities released security footage showing that Rivera and her son were the only two people to board the rental boat he was later found alone on.
The footage, released by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, shows Rivera and the 4-year-old boy park near Lake Piru, about 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles, walk to the docks and board a pontoon Wednesday afternoon.
A few hours later, the vendor who rented the pontoon to Rivera discovered the boy sleeping alone in the boat on the lake. The child told investigators that he and his mom had been swimming, and he got in the boat but his mother did not, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office. The boy was wearing an adult life vest. Rivera’s purse and wallet, along with some food, were found on the boat.
More than 50 people were on the water searching for Rivera on Wednesday, and double that were searching for the 33-year-old on Thursday, when Sheriff’s Sgt. Kevin Donoghue announced in the afternoon that crews had shifted from a rescue effort to a recovery effort. He had said there were no signs of foul play.
“Investigators believe Rivera drowned in what appears to be a tragic accident,” a sheriff’s office statement said.
The search would resume at daybreak Friday but has been challenging due to low visibility, even during daylight. “The difficult conditions have made the recovery operation a very slow process,” the statement said.
Plants below the water hampering search crews may have also been a problem for Rivera even though “she had experience boating out here at the lake,” Donoghue said. “If the body is entangled on something beneath the water, it may never come back up,” he said.
In the area where the boat was found, the water was about 30 feet deep, authorities said.
Several agencies are involved in the search, including the Ventura County Search & Rescue Dive Team, Ventura County Aviation Unit, Sheriff’s Major Crimes Bureau, Lake Piru Rangers, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office and United States Coast Guard.
The boy, Rivera’s son from her marriage to actor Ryan Dorsey, was safe and healthy and with family members, authorities said. The couple finalized their divorce in June 2018 after nearly four years of marriage.
Rivera is best known for playing cheerleader Santana Lopez on the TV show “Glee,” a high school glee club musical and comedy that ran on Fox from 2009 to 2015.
At least two “Glee” performers have died since the series’ conclusion.
In 2018, 35-year-old Mark Salling, who faced up to seven years in prison for child pornography possession, was found dead in Los Angeles. Law enforcement sources said at the time that they believed he died by suicide. Salling and Rivera had dated.
Cory Monteith, one of the show’s leads, died at age 31 in 2013 from a toxic mix of alcohol and heroin.
Associated Press contributed.