Naya Rivera's cause of death has been confirmed as drowning by accident, her autopsy reveals. In a document shared on social media by the Ventura County Sheriff's Office, it states the medical examiner positively identified the body to be that of the Glee actress on 13 July, six days after she went missing in Lake Piru.
The alarm was raised about Rivera's disappearance on Wednesday last week (8 July) after Rivera's four-year-old son Josey was found alone and asleep in a drifting boat. The 33-year-old had rented the boat for the afternoon, where they both proceeded to get out and swim. But only Josey, who was wearing his life jacket when he was discovered in the vessel, returned. The other, adult-sized life jacket was found unused in the boat along with the child.
In a press conference earlier this week, Sheriff Bill Ayub said that, while none of the details surrounding Naya Rivera's death could yet be confirmed, officers believed she may have prioritised her son's safety over her own life.
"It would be speculation to say at this point, [but] there are a lot of currents on the lake that appear particularly in the afternoon," said the Sheriff. "We believe it was mid-afternoon when she disappeared, the idea perhaps being that the boat started drifting - it was unanchored - and that she mustered enough energy to get her son back on to the boat, but not enough to save herself."
The attached document was just released by the Ventura County Medical Examiner's Office regarding Naya Rivera, whose body was found yesterday in Lake Piru. pic.twitter.com/6APEgrBPaQ— Ventura Co. Sheriff (@VENTURASHERIFF) July 14, 2020
The medical examiner's report is in keeping with this theory, labelling the actress' death an "accident". The document read: "The body of a woman found in Lake Piru on Monday July 13, 2020 has been confirmed as Naya Marie Rivera. The cause of death is drowning, and the manner of death accident."
The report goes on to detail the autopsy's findings further. "On the morning of July 13, the Ventura County Medical Examiner's Office was notified that the body of a woman believed to be 33-year-old Naya Marie Rivera was recovered from the waters of Lake Piru in Ventura County, California," it reads.
"The circumstances and visual characteristics all indicated that the body was that of Naya Rivera and the identity has been confirmed by dental comparison. The body has been x-rayed and a full autopsy has been performed. The autopsy findings are consistent with a drowning and the condition of the body is consistent with the time that she was submerged."
The report confirms that "no traumatic injuries or disease processes were identified" during the autopsy, and also notes that there is "no indication from the investigation or examination that drugs or alcohol played a role in the decedent's death, but specimens will be submitted for toxicology testing."
Naya Rivera's body was recovered from the water by search teams just after 9am local time on Monday morning. Sheriff Bill Ayub confirmed the actress was found in "a north-eastern portion of the lake, near the surface of the water." It's believed the reason it took search teams six days to find Rivera is that she had previously been submerged, but due to the natural process of gases being released from the body she eventually rose to the top. The depth of the lake in that area is estimated to be somewhere between 35 and 60 feet deep, with heavy brush and trees lining the lake bed.
Since her death was confirmed, Rivera's former Glee cast-mates and other celebrities have paid tribute to her. Chris Colfer, who starred in Glee as Kurt Hummel, wrote on Instagram: "How can you convey all your love and respect for someone in one post? How can you summarise a decade of friendship and laughter with words alone? If you were friends with Naya Rivera, you simply can’t. Her brilliance and humour were unmatched. Her beauty and talent were otherworldly. She spoke truth to power with poise and fearlessness. She could turn a bad day into a great day with a single remark. She inspired and uplifted people without even trying. Being close to her was both a badge of honour and a suit of armour. Naya was truly one of a kind, and she always will be."
Demi Lovato also shared her sadness at her former co-star's death: "RIP Naya Rivera. I’ll forever cherish the opportunity to play your girlfriend on Glee. The character you played was groundbreaking for tons of closeted queer girls (like me at the time) and open queer girls, and your ambition and accomplishments were inspiring to Latina women all over the world. My heart goes out to your loved ones at this time."
Our thoughts are with Naya Rivera's friends and families at this heartbreaking time.
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