The search and recovery mission for Glee star Naya Rivera entered its third day on Friday amid fears the actress may have drowned in Lake Piru after being ‘dragged down by a whirlpool.’
The 33-year-old remains missing and is believed to have died in a ‘tragic accident’, two days after she disappeared on a boating trip with her four-year-old son Josey, who was found alone on their rented pontoon boat with her life vest on board.
The search is now being treated as recovery operation with sonar equipment as authorities believe Rivera likely drowned in the lake where at least eight others have died since 1994, including nine-year-old Denise Arredondo who was sucked below the surface by a whirlpool.
The girl’s cousin Andrea Arredondo, 26, told The Sun it’s possible the actress may have also been dragged down by a vortex on Wednesday which she said are ‘notorious’ at the lake.
‘I was very surprised with this piece of information because I wasn’t even aware that whirlpools occurred in lakes,’ she said. ‘I really hope that isn’t the reason Naya didn’t resurface, but it could be one of the possibilities.’
Naya Rivera remains missing and is believed to have died in a ‘tragic accident’, two days after she disappeared on a boating trip at Lake Piru with her four-year-old son Josey
Search operations continued on Friday with rescuers deploying ‘sophisticated sonar equipment’ in a bid to find her body
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department said Friday’s mission is using fewer people in the search, ‘but more technology to help us find better clues’
The cousin of Denise Arredondo, who died at the same lake in 2009, said it’s possible Rivera may have been pulled into by a whirlpool as well. Pictured: A sign at the lake warning visitors about the dangers of the water
Arredondo said Denise and her family were swimming at the lake on May 19, 2009 and had wandered into a shallow area before she was suddenly dragged underneath the water.
Her father, who was holding her younger siblings nearby, desperately tried to pull her out by holding on to her hair, but failed to save his daughter, she said.
When rescuers finally pulled Denise from the lake, Arredondo said her body was ‘extremely unrecognizable’ and was something a young girl ‘should never have to witness. ‘
The Ventura Sheriff’s Department confirmed whirlpools are possible at Lake Piru and are more common when the dams are open, according to The Sun.
Arredondo issued a stark warning to visitors, advising them to be ‘extremely cautious’ when visiting the scenic lake.
‘I definitely think that if they had put warning signs since the first drownings back in the 90s, everyone else could have possibly been saved,’ she said.
Swimming is permitted in designated areas of the lake however, the policy states it’s considered a ‘hazardous recreational activity’ as there are few lifeguards and the water ranges from five to 40ft in depth.
The area around the lake has at least one sign reading, ‘No Swimming or Wading. Danger – Hazards Exist!’, however locals have launched a petition demanding additional signage be installed.
Sergeant Kevin Donoghue of the Ventura County Sheriffs Department said the recovery operation is ‘methodical’ and authorities have switched to using sonar equipment
Authorities have said it’s possible that Rivera’s body ‘may never come back up’ if it is ‘entangled on something beneath the water’
Rescue teams said search operations for Rivera’s body have been difficult due to the poor visibility in the water which is mostly murky and full of plants and debris.
Police said it’s possible that Rivera’s body ‘may never come back up’ if it is ‘entangled on something beneath the water’.
On Wednesday authorities released CCTV footage of the actress and her four-year-old son Josey arriving at Lake Piru and boarding their pontoon boat hours before she disappeared.
In a video released by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday, Rivera is seen pulling up to the dock in her Mercedes-Benz SUV around 1pm on Wednesday, before hopping on a rental boat with the boy and heading out into the lake.
The search for Rivera was suspended for a second night running after darkness fell on Thursday night, with no sign of a body so far. The search resumed on Friday morning as a ‘recovery operation’ now that investigators believe Rivera drowned in ‘what appears to be a tragic accident’.
Divers say the waters are murky and full of plants and debris, limiting their visibility to less than one foot and forcing them to use their hands in what crew member Max O’Brien described as a ‘braille search’.
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office released CCTV footage showing Naya Rivera and her four-year-old son arriving at the dock on Lake Piru on Wednesday
The pair climbed onto their pontoon boat rental before heading out into the lake at around 1pm
Eagle-eyed viewers spotted a jetski cruising by Rivera’s boat that they believe could have information on the star’s final moments before she disappeared
The heartbroken ex-husband of missing Naya Rivera is seen for the first time comforting his young son just a day after the Glee actress vanished from a California lake where she’d been boating with the four-year-old
Four-year-old Josey has meanwhile been returned to his family and was yesterday pictured in the arms of his father, Rivera’s ex-husband Ryan Dorsey, 36.
Along with the surveillance footage, cops have also shared the 911 call from the boat rental facility at 4.37pm when Rivera was first reported missing.
The caller had apparently been sent to check on Rivera and her son after the actress failed to return the rental boat at the expected time.
Mistaking four-year-old Josey for a girl, the caller said they had ‘found a little girl in one of the boats by the south end’ and added that ‘the mom is nowhere to be found’.
The dispatcher asked for the child’s age and ethnicity, but the caller had yet to see the toddler close up and was told to gather more information before calling back.
Rivera and her son had rented the boat around 1pm before sailing into the lake, located about 60 miles from the actress’s Los Angeles home.
Swimming is allowed in some parts of the lake and authorities say there are ‘really no strong undercurrents like you would have in the ocean’, but warn that the cold water could cause hypothermia.
The lake’s policy states that those who choose to go swimming do so at their own risk as it’s regarded as a ‘hazardous recreational activity’ because there are not many lifeguards on the ground.
It is not clear exactly where the boat was discovered or where Rivera and her son were when she jumped in, but the search is focusing on the northern part of the lake in an area where the water is about 30ft deep.
The clip shows the pair walk over to get assistance with the boat rental, being led to their eventual vessel
Footage shows Rivera and her son take off on the pontoon boat
The boat can be seen heading north in the reservoir and would not be seen for several hours
Later, after retrieving the toddler, investigators learned that Naya and Josey had both gone in the water for a swim, but that only Josey had climbed back on board.
How this happened is not clear and cops admitted on Wednesday night that it was ‘somewhat challenging’ to interview a four-year-old.
Max O’Brien, told reporters that the operation had become a ‘braille search’ with divers forced to uncover their surroundings ‘by feel’
‘He gave enough information to investigators to conclude that his mother never made it out of the water,’ Sgt Kevin Donoghue said.
Captain Eric Buschow told ABC that it remained a mystery how Naya had disappeared, speculating that she ‘could have suffered a medical episode’ while ‘playing innocently’ in the water. He added that investigators questioning the boy wanted to ‘limit the amount of trauma’ that Josey is facing.
Divers and helicopters scoured the lake until night fell on Wednesday and continued their search for all of Thursday with rescuers using sonar equipment.
Two German Shepherds from the California Rescue Dog Association have also been added to the expanding search party for Rivera, the Ventura County Star reports.
They are trained to detect gasses that are released by human cadavers, performing a search along a grid of the lake and assisting divers in potentially locating Rivera’s body.
The search for the Glee star resumed at first light on Thursday, but a statement from the sheriff’s office said it had ‘turned into a recovery mission’ with authorities no longer holding out hope that Rivera is alive.
‘Investigators believe Rivera drowned in what appears to be a tragic accident,’ the sheriff’s office said after the four-year-old told them that his mother had not returned to the shore. There is no suspicion of foul play.
Sgt Bill Hutton described the the search as being ‘very technical,’ adding that GPS data from the search would be analyzed overnight while conditions are too difficult to dive.
Authorities say they plan to release footage to show just how difficult some of the conditions have been in the search.
The Glee star and her son Josey rented a pontoon boat on Lake Piru on Wednesday afternoon, but three hours later another boater raised the alarm
Sgt Kevin Donoghue from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, speaking at Lake Piru, said more than 100 police and first responders are now searching for Naya’s body.
Donoghue told reporters that the rescuers were focusing on the northern half of the lake ‘hoping to find any clues or evidence of her disappearance’.
‘Our thoughts and prayers are with her family at this terrible time and we hope to bring closure for them,’ he said.
Donoghue warned it could be weeks before the body is found, if it is recovered at all. He said: ‘If the body is entangled on something beneath the water, it may never come back up.’
He added: ‘There’s no way to really say. We’re putting our best foot forward to try and locate her, we’re using all the assets that are available to us, we’re using technology like Sonar.’
Donoghue said experts involved in the search know the lake ‘inside and out,’ adding: ‘We’re relying on their expertise to help us in that endeavour. We’re going to do everything that we can to find her.’
Into the darkness: The search for Naya Rivera continued until nightfall on Lake Piru until it was suspended for a second day running with no trace of the Glee star being found so far
This diagram shows where Naya Rivera and her son rented a boat on Lake Piru before the four-year-old was seen alone. The map in the top left shows the location of the lake in relation to Los Angeles where Rivera lives
Rescuers sail on the lake as the light faded last night, with authorities now saying they are engaged in a ‘recovery operation’ and believing that Naya Rivera died in a ‘tragic accident’
A patrol boat on the shore of Lake Piru on the second day of the search for Naya Rivera, who was last seen on Wednesday renting a pontoon boat with her four-year-old son Josey
The so-called recovery mission has involved helicopters from the Sheriff’s Office and US Coast Guard as well as multiple dive teams operating from six boats.
The depth of the lake differs greatly, officer Chris Dyer said, saying it can go from between 50-60ft to 4ft over a short distance.
Visibility in the lake during the daytime is about eight to 10 inches, while sizeable debris including trees flow beneath the surface, police said.
‘The difficult conditions have made the recovery operation a very slow process’, the sheriff’s office said, saying that conditions were too dangerous to continue the search overnight after some had criticized the pause.
More than 100 rescuers are at the lake and involved in the effort to find Rivera, with ‘multiple dive teams’ searching the murky depths while two helicopters continue to scour the waves from above.
The task has been complicated by rising winds, with the surface becoming choppier.
One diver, Max O’Brien, told reporters that the operation had become a ‘braille search’ with divers forced to uncover their surroundings ‘by feel’ because of the limited visibility’.
‘There’s a lot of tree branches and overgrowth from when the lake was lower so we’re breaking through sticks and searching a heavy brush bottom,’ he said.
Two German Shepherds from the California Rescue Dog Association have also been added to the expanding search party for Rivera, the Ventura County Star reports
A rescuer wearing a life vest stands on the edge of a boat on Lake Piru as the search continued without success on Thursday
A helicopter from the Ventura County sheriff’s department takes part in the search yesterday. Additional aircraft have also been supplied by the US Coast Guard
The small vessel Naya was using is moored at the dock, marked off with yellow police tape. Sgt Donoghue said her purse and ID was found alongside her son.
There was also a life jacket onboard and her son was wearing a second life jacket.
‘We know she has been to this lake before and is familiar with it but we aren’t sure whether her son has been here,’ he added.
He said officers are in constant contact with the actress’ family. ‘As far as we understand, her son is physically okay,’ he said. ‘From what I understand, he has told investigators his mother never made it out of the water.’
At least eight people have drowned in the lake since 1994, including a father who died in 2008 after saving his daughter who had fallen into the water.
Naftoli Smolyanksy, 39, leaped into the water to save her and was able to put her back on the boat but then drowned in the water as it sped away from him.
Rivera’s presumed death has sparked anger from locals who have demanded that warning signs be installed around the lake in a petition which has gathered more than 18,000 signatures.
‘Naya Rivera is not the first, nor the last to go missing at Lake Piru. Lake Piru is a very deep lake with very bad whirlpools, people have been asking for years for the city to put up warning signs for swimmers,’ it reads.
Search and rescue personnel exit the pier at Lake Piru in Los Padres National Forest during the second day of the search
An emergency vehicle on the shore of Lake Piru during the second day of the search for missing actress Naya Rivera yesterday
The dogs are trained to detect gasses that are released by human cadavers, performing a search along a grid of the lake and assisting divers in potentially locating the Rivera’s body
An emergency response vehicle near the pear at Lake Piru yesterday, behind a sign warning visitors of the dangers of swimming or wading in the water. Police say it is permitted to swim from a boat
‘Locals of Ventura County don’t go to Lake Piru for this reason! Tourist have no idea what they’re getting into. Lake Piru needs signs. We’re tired of waiting. We need justice for all those who got lost at Lake Piru. Put up the signs.’
The 911 call the boat rental facility made, incorrectly calling Naya Rivera’s son a girl when reporting the actress missing
The Ventura Sheriff’s Department has released audio of the 911 call made on Wednesday by the boat rental facility at Lake Piru after an employee noted that Naya Rivera and her son had not returned.
In the call, the employee initially notes that a girl was left alone in the boat, adding that she was not actually down at the scene to see.
Employee: ‘Lake Piru, the emergency is we have a missing person. We found a little girl in one of the boats by the south end the mom is nowhere to be found.’
Dispatcher: ‘Okay, Lake Piru… Okay and is she white, black, Asian or Hispanic?’
Employee: ‘I have no idea, I’m headed down there right now to go check. My husband was one of the people who were first there and I am going to get more information. He just told me to call it in.’
Dispatcher: ‘Okay… Do you know if it is a boy or a girl?’
Employee: ‘I believe it is a little girl.’
Dispatcher: ‘Approximate age?’
Employee: ‘Like I said, I have no idea. I’m heading down there right now. Do you want me to call it back when I get there?’
Dispatcher: ‘I’ll put the little bit of information that I have but yeah when you get there, can you give us a call back.’
Lake Piru re-opened on July 1 after a number of campsites and recreational facilities in the Los Padres National were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The lake, technically a reservoir, is owned by the United Water Conservation District which says it offers ‘an array of boat rentals from small V-hull fishing boats to a party pontoon boat for the family’.
A policy document warns that swimmers are ‘engaging in a hazardous recreational activity and do so at their own risk’. Young children are required to wear life vests, while adults are encouraged to wear them but not required.
Lake Piru is closed while the search continues and its owners say that ‘our thoughts are with the family and friends of Naya Rivera at this difficult time’.
Josey’s father Ryan Dorsey was spotted holding the boy in his arms as they left the home of Naya’s sister, model Nickayla Rivera in Valencia, California on Thursday.
Dorsey, who has joint custody of his son after he divorced Glee star Naya in June 2018, was visibly upset earlier in the day as he woke up to the reality of what had happened.
Dorsey’s housemate in Los Angeles told DailyMail.com that Dorsey immediately headed to the popular tourist spot as soon as he was notified that their son was found alone on a pontoon boat.
The housemate, who asked not to be named, said: ‘Ryan headed up there as soon as their son was found to look after him. He was gone by the time I got home Wednesday. ‘
It is not clear whether Rivera had driven from her LA home or was staying somewhere closer to the lake.
Rivera had last posted on social media on July 7, sharing a touching photo of her with her so Josey. ‘Just the two of us,’ she wrote as a caption.
A source close to the star told PEOPLE Magazine on Thursday that Rivera had seemed ‘happy,’ ‘busy’ and ‘just kind of living life’ in the weeks before her disappearance.
‘Everybody is in a wait-and-see pattern and trying to figure out exactly what happened,’ the source said.
‘Her son comes first. That’s apparent in everything she’s posted and done. Everything is about her son,’ the source told the outlet, adding: ‘Everybody is in disbelief.’
The actress starred in Glee from 2009 to 2015, playing high school cheerleader Santana Lopez for all six seasons of the popular series.
Naya welcomed son Josey with then-husband Dorsey in 2015. She called her young son ‘my greatest success, and I will never do any better than him’ in her 2016 memoir ‘Sorry Not Sorry.’
Rivera’s former Glee co-star Demi Lovato was among those to hold out hope last night, saying on Twitter that she still hoped Naya would be found alive.
‘I don’t tweet often but sometimes my tweets come true so, together let’s manifest on twitter that Naya will be found safe and sound!! Come on y’all! Let’s put this energy out there: they will find her healthy and alive,’ she said.
Heather Morris, another former Glee co-star, last night praised the California authorities for ‘working tirelessly right now in the search and recovery of our Naya’.
Morris had previously said after learning of Rivera’s disappearance: ‘We need all the prayers we can get to bring our Naya back to us… we need your love and light.’