The death of Naya Rivera at 33 years old has left many people in shock six days after she was first reported missing on Wednesday, July 8.
The Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed on Tuesday that the body found in California’s Lake Piru was Rivera. “The cause of death is drowning and the manner of death is accident,” they said in a statement. Her body was identified by “dental comparison.”
According to Us Weekly, Rivera went swimming in Lake Piru with her 4-year-old son Josey Hollis Dorsey last Wednesday when she went missing.
“It is believed that Naya and her son were swimming in the lake near the boat and as they were getting back into the boat, her son made it into the boat and Naya went under water and did not resurface,” the sheriff’s department explained.
Authorities began a “large-scale search and rescue operation” for the Glee actress, but called off their search around 10 p.m. due to “darkness and safety” concerns. Ventura County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Captain Eric Buschow explained that Josey, who Rivera had with her ex-husband Ryan Dorsey, was found with a life vest around 4 p.m. on Wednesday.
“There was another vest on board the boat for an adult, so it looks like she was not wearing a vest,” Buschow explained to Us. “He was found on the boat by a passerby. He was found fast asleep on the boat by himself. I can only imagine the family is going through a traumatic experience right now.”
Rivera’s breakout role was as Santana Lopez on Glee, however, she got her start in the entertainment industry at a much younger age. The actress and singer appeared in various sitcoms throughout the ’90s starting with The Royal Family starring Redd Foxx and Della Reese. She went on to make appearances in shows like Family Matters, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Smart Guy.
Tahj Mowry, who played the lead role of T.J. Henderson in Smart Guy, paid tribute to Rivera before her body was found, revealing that she was his “first” in many aspects of his life.
“We grew up together. We became adults together. We experienced so many firsts together,” Mowry wrote in a moving Instagram post. “You were my first experience with everything; love, intimacy, heartbreak. We broke each others hearts and then mended them back together…more than once. I will never not think of you.”
Jackée Harris, who starred in The Royal Family and in other celebrated sitcoms like Sister, Sister, also made a post about Rivera last week, writing, “Prayers up for the lovely Naya Rivera. We starred alongside one another in her very first television series, The Royal Family, and I’ve watched her career blossom ever since. Please God, don’t cut this life short.”
Now that Rivera’s body has been identified, even more sitcoms stars have sent their condolences on social media.
Check out some of the moving tributes below.