“I don’t know who is who in the cast, but there were 12 to 15 people,” Captain Eric Buschow, spokesperson for the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, told Us Weekly exclusively on Tuesday, July 14, one day after Rivera was pronounced dead at age 33. “They were down there by the edge of the lake and prayed for about a half hour. … I did not go down there and stand with them, so I don’t know what they did or said other than they had expressed a desire to go down there and have a prayer.”
ABC7 Eyewitness News captured the heartbreaking moment on Monday when the actress’ loved ones and former colleagues held hands while looking out at the lake in Ventura County. A source confirmed to Us at the time that Amber Riley was among those paying tribute alongside Rivera’s family members. Heather Morris, who previously asked to join the search and rescue mission, was also spotted in photos obtained by the Daily Mail.
“As they were praying, we got a call that the body was discovered on the surface of the lake,” Buschow added. “We didn’t tell them because anytime we — in the case of a death, we don’t want people to find out from other sources or from the media. We want the family to be notified officially. We don’t want them to learn about it on the news.”
The California native was reported missing on July 8 after spending a day on a rented pontoon boat with her 4-year-old son, Josey, who was later discovered sleeping aboard the vessel. Upon confirming that Rivera had died in the water, authorities said that her son, whom she shares with ex-husband Ryan Dorsey, watched her “disappear.”
“We know from speaking with her son that he and Naya swam in the lake together at some point during their journey,” Sheriff William Ayub said during a press conference on Monday afternoon. “There are a lot of currents that appear on the lake in the afternoon. She mustered enough energy to get her son back on the boat but not enough to save herself.”
An official autopsy will be conducted to reveal the cause of Rivera’s death, but the sheriff believed there “was no indication of foul play, and no indication this was a suicide.”
Hours after the Sorry Not Sorry author’s death was announced, well-wishes from her former costars and close friends quickly appeared on social media. Chris Colfer, who worked closely with Rivera on Glee from 2009 to 2015, penned an emotional note to the “otherworldly” actress.
“How can you convey all your love and respect for someone in one post? How can you summarize a decade of friendship and laughter with words alone? If you were friends with Naya Rivera, you simply can’t,” he wrote on Monday. “She inspired and uplifted people without even trying. Being close to her was both a badge of honor and a suit of armor. Naya was truly one of a kind, and she always will be. Sending all my love to her wonderful family and her beautiful son.”
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