Naya Rivera’s four-year-old son told police his mother helped him onto their rented boat before she disappeared beneath the surface of Lake Piru.
The 33-year-old former Glee actress went missing during a boating trip in Southern California on Wednesday and Ventura County Sheriff’s Office announced on Monday it had found her body.
There is no indication of foul play or that Rivera took her own life, Sheriff Bill Ayub said during a press conference.
Officers also shared more details on how Rivera may have died, but added it was “speculation” at this point.
Mr Ayub said currents that typically appear on the surface of the lake in the afternoon may have caused the unanchored boat to drift away from Rivera and her son Josey Hollis, who was wearing a life jacket, while they were swimming.
Rivera, who was not wearing a life jacket, may have “mustered enough energy” to put the child back on board but not enough to save herself, he added.
Police said undergrowth in the water complicated the search and officers had scoured the portion of the lake where Rivera was later found.
Investigators said they believe she was concealed by the shrubbery before floating to the surface after becoming buoyant during decomposition.
She was found at about 9.10am local time by Lake Piru park rangers. The body looked like it had been in the water for several days, police added.
Her body was found seven years to the day that her former Glee co-star Cory Monteith died aged 31 from a toxic mix of alcohol and heroin.
Mark Salling, another Glee cast member, also died in his 30s, killing himself in 2018 at 35 after pleading guilty to child pornography charges.
Rest sweet, Naya. What a force you were. Love and peace to your family.— Jane Lynch (@janemarielynch) July 13, 2020
Rivera was best known for playing high school cheerleader Santana Lopez in TV musical comedy Glee.
Her co-stars were among those paying tribute.
Demi Lovato, who played Rivera’s on-screen girlfriend in Glee, said she will “forever cherish” starring alongside her.
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 (at the time) queer girls like me, and your ambition and accomplishments were inspiring to Latina women all over the world. pic.twitter.com/oCML03M9Kw— Demi Lovato (@ddlovato) July 14, 2020
The singer posted pictures of the pair on set together and said: “The character you played was groundbreaking for tons of closeted (at the time) queer girls like me, and your ambition and accomplishments were inspiring to Latina women all over the world.”
Lovato added: “My heart goes out to your loved ones at this time.”
Jane Lynch tweeted: “Rest sweet, Naya. What a force you were. Love and peace to your family.”
Josh Sussman, who played Jacob Ben Israel in Glee, said: “Naya, you will be missed so much.”
Lea Michele, who played Rachel Berry on Glee, shared a tribute to Rivera on her Instagram Story.
She posted a black and white picture of the actress, alongside another image showing the backs of Glee cast members looking over a beach.
Chris Colfer, who starred as Kurt Hummel on the show, penned a lengthy tribute to Rivera on Instagram.
He said her “brilliance and humour were unmatched” and her “beauty and talent were otherworldly”.
Colfer added: “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.”
Golden Globe winner Darren Criss starred in Glee as Blaine Anderson and shared a glowing tribute to Rivera on Twitter.
He described her as “bold” and “outrageous” and said she was “a LOT of fun”.
He praised her “playful, wicked sense of humour” that “never ceased to bring a smile to my face”.
She was bold. She was outrageous. She was a LOT of fun.— Darren Criss (@DarrenCriss) July 14, 2020
Naya made me laugh like no one else on that set. I always said it while we were working together and I’ve maintained it ever since. Her playful, wicked sense of humor never ceased to bring a smile to my face.
Criss added: “And even as I sit here, struggling to comprehend, gutted beyond description- the very thought of her cracks me up and still brings a smile to my face. That was Naya’s gift. And it’s a gift that will never go away. Rest in peace you wild, hilarious, beautiful angel.”
Heather Morris, who played Rivera’s on-screen love interest in the programme, was pictured holding hands with members of the late actress’s family at the side of the lake, shortly after police found the body.
Rivera and her son rented a boat at Lake Piru, a popular spot for swimmers about 56 miles north-west of central Los Angeles, at about 1pm last Wednesday.
The alarm was raised when the boat was overdue to return and the boy was found asleep and wearing a life jacket on the drifting vessel.
An adult-sized life jacket was found on board along with some of Rivera’s belongings.
A rescue mission was launched but the actress was nowhere to be found. The next day police said she was presumed dead.
Rivera became engaged to rapper Big Sean in October 2013, but they ended their relationship in April 2014.
She then began dating actor Ryan Dorsey and they married in Mexico in July that year.
The couple had son Josey in September 2015.
Rivera filed for divorce after two years of marriage, but they later called off the separation before finalising their divorce in June 2018.