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Naya Rivera’s family release statement after tragic death of their ‘sassy angel’ thanking ‘heroine’

Naya Rivera’s family has released a statement in the wake of authorities recovering her body from California’s Lake Piru Monday, confirming the Glee star’s tragic death at 33.

‘We are so grateful for the outpouring of love and prayers for Naya, Josey and our family over the past week,’ the family said. ‘While we grieve the loss of our beautiful legend, we are blessed to honor her everlasting legacy and magnetic spirit. Naya was an amazing talent, but was an even greater person, mother, daughter and sister.’

The family was grateful to authorities for their exhaustive search of the area for the better part of a week in their search for the actress. 

The latest: Naya Rivera’s family has released a statement in the wake of authorities recovering her body from California’s Lake Piru Monday, confirming the Glee star’s tragic death at 33 

‘Thank you to the men and women of the Ventura, Tulare, and San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Departments for your commitment and unwavering effort to find Naya,’ the family said. ‘We extend endless gratitude and ovation to the heroine who found her. Thank you to her friends, colleagues, and fans for your continuous support.

‘Heaven gained our sassy angel. We kindly request that our privacy be respected during this very difficult time.’

The statement was released by Rivera’s rep Gladys Gonzalez on behalf of the grieving family, Deadline reported.

Rivera had gone missing last week while she took her son Josey, four, out on a boat ride.  Authorities with Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office on Thursday said Rivera had died due to accidental drowning. The actress is survived by Josey, parents, Yolanda and George Rivera; brother Mychal and sister Nickayla. 

Ventura County Medical Examiner's Office released the autopsy's findings on Tuesday

Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office released the autopsy’s findings on Tuesday

Rivera's body was recovered from the northeast portion of Lake Piru on Monday

Rivera’s body was recovered from the northeast portion of Lake Piru on Monday

‘The circumstances and visual characteristics all indicated that the body was that of Naya Rivera and the identity has been confirmed by dental comparison,’ a report states. ‘The autopsy findings are consistent with a drowning and the condition of the body is consistent with the time that she was submerged. 

‘No traumatic injuries or disease processes were identified at autopsy.

‘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,’ it added. 

The date of pronouncement was listed as Monday, July 13.  

The Glee star’s body was recovered from the northeast portion of Lake Piru, located 50 miles north of Los Angeles, on Monday after she went missing last week. 

Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub said there was nothing to indicate any foul play took place or that she died by suicide. 

Her family released their first statement after the autopsy confirmed her death on Tuesday in which they paid tribute to Rivera as a ‘sassy angel’ and ‘magnetic spirit’. 

‘We are so grateful for the outpouring of love and prayers for Naya, Josey and our family over the past week,’ they told Deadline. 

‘While we grieve the loss of our beautiful legend, we are blessed to honor her everlasting legacy and magnetic spirit. Naya was an amazing talent, but was an even greater person, mother, daughter and sister.

‘Thank you to the men and women of the Ventura, Tulare, and San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Departments for your commitment and unwavering effort to find Naya,’ the statement added. 

‘We extend endless gratitude and ovation to the heroine who found her. Thank you to her friends, colleagues, and fans for your continuous support.

‘Heaven gained our sassy angel. We kindly request that our privacy be respected during this very difficult time.’

Ventura County Sheriff's Office confirmed Rivera's death by drowning on Tuesday

Ventura County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Rivera’s death by drowning on Tuesday

The search began after Rivera went missing on July 8 while boating with her four-year-old son Josey. The pair were swimming when Josey said Rivera didn't get back on the boat

The search began after Rivera went missing on July 8 while boating with her four-year-old son Josey. The pair were swimming when Josey said Rivera didn’t get back on the boat

This diagram shows where actress Naya Rivera, 33,  and her four-year-old son Josey rented a boat on Lake Piru before the young boy was found alone. The map in the top left shows the location of the lake in relation to Los Angeles where Rivera lives

This diagram shows where actress Naya Rivera, 33,  and her four-year-old son Josey rented a boat on Lake Piru before the young boy was found alone. The map in the top left shows the location of the lake in relation to Los Angeles where Rivera lives 

Rivera went missing on July 8 while boating with her four-year-old son Josey. 

A search began after the young boy was found asleep alone in a boat in the middle of the lake. There was no trace of Rivera.

He said the actress never got back onto the boat when they went for a swim. 

Naya’s distraught family were seen at the lake trying to assist investigators in their search for her. 

On Monday, the search honed in on a cove where the actress had taken a photograph of Josey and sent it to a relative 90 minutes before he was found on the boat.  

Naya Rivera sent a photo of her four-year-old son Josey to a family member 90 minutes before he was found on their pontoon boat that shows the cove they’d sailed to 

‘There was a picture sent to a family member that showed the boy on the boat by a cove. We found where that cove was,’ Robert Inglis of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office Search & Rescue Team told Us Weekly. 

He previously said: ‘What I suspect is that the winds kicked up. 

‘Those pontoon boats are very light, and when you push them, it can get away from you. She might’ve tried to swim after the boat. But that’s all speculation. Once we do locate her, that’ll answer a lot more questions.’ 

Police have not shared the image and it’s unclear which cove it was taken in. Over the weekend, they asked members of the public not to go looking for the star themselves in the dangerous water. 

On Sunday, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office had announced that cabins on the banks of the lake would be searched after social media users theorized that Rivera could have ended up in one.

But Sgt. Shannon King later told People: ‘They’re not occupied. Nothing came of it. There’s no evidence to say she left the water. It appears to be 100 percent just a tragic drowning.’ 

The actress grew up 20 miles from the lake and was familiar with it, police sources said last week. 

She thought of it as her ‘sanctuary’, despite it being known for rip currents and icy waters that can overpower swimmers. 

The lake itself is 1,200 acres and can reach depths of up to 130 feet. 

With almost zero visibility, human divers were resorting to searching by feel, Eric Buschow, Ventura County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said at a press conference Friday evening. 

Actress Heather Morris was among those there

Heather Morris on Glee

Actress Heather Morris was among those there. She appeared on Glee (right) with Rivera 

Rivera's ex husband Ryan Dorsey, right, was at the lake on Monday with her father George

Rivera’s ex husband Ryan Dorsey, right, was at the lake on Monday with her father George

Some of Rivera's Glee castmates went to the lake on Monday after authorities recovered a body. They held hands on the shore while waiting for confirmation of the identity of the body

Some of Rivera’s Glee castmates went to the lake on Monday after authorities recovered a body. They held hands on the shore while waiting for confirmation of the identity of the body

‘We don’t know if she’s going to be found five minutes from now or five days from now, so we’re still going to be continuing this effort,’ he said. 

‘The visibility in the water is one to two feet,’ Buschow added.    

A body was found floating on the surface of the lake Monday and Sheriff Ayub said they were ‘confident’ it was Rivera. 

‘Based on the location where the body was found, physical characteristics of the body, clothing found of the body and the physical condition of the body, as well as the absence of any other persons reported in the area, we are confident the body we found is that of Naya Rivera,’ he said.  

THE GLEE STAR WHO CALLED HER SON HER ‘GREATEST SUCCESS’

A native of Santa Clarita, California, Rivera began acting at 4, appearing in such series as ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,’ ‘Family Matters’ and ‘The Bernie Mac Show.’ As a teen, she struggled with an eating disorder and had breast implants put in at 18 – ‘a confidence thing, not a sexual thing,’ she would later write in her autobiography.

‘I had the lowest self esteem in high school possible. I wasn’t popular, I didn’t have friends, but I would say it´s really important that you know who you are and you’re going to win in the end because of that,’ Rivera said in 2011.

She worked odd jobs as a telemarketer, a nanny, a waitress and an Abercrombie & Fitch greeter before landing the role of Santana Lopez on Ryan Murphy´s ‘Glee.’

Rivera played a secondary character – the mean cheerleader with blistering put-downs – in the show´s first season, but became a show regular in the second season as she struggled to reveal her character’ sexual identity. Many on social media credited her character for making them feel better about their own sexuality.

Some of her more memorable songs on the show include a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Landslide’ with guest star Gwyneth Paltrow, ‘Here Comes the Sun’ with Demi Lovato, and a tearful cover of The Band Perry’s ‘If I Die Young.’

‘It would be an understatement to say that Glee changed my life. It overhauled it. It got me out of debt. It helped to cement my career. And before the show, I’d never had a group of people I was that close with,’ she wrote in her memoir. 

After the show, Rivera sought success in film and music. She made her feature film debut in 2014’s ‘At the Devil’s Door,’ playing a woman caught in the middle of supernatural events, and released the single ‘Sorry’ in 2013 featuring rapper Big Sean, a one-time fiance.

She and actor Ryan Dorsey were married in 2014 and their son, Josey, was born in 2015. She called her young son ‘my greatest success, and I will never do any better than him’.

Rivera was arrested and charged in West Virginia in 2017 with misdemeanor domestic battery after she allegedly hit Dorsey. The charge was dismissed because Dorsey did not wish to press charges. They divorced soon after.

Most recently, Rivera had a role on Lifetime’s ‘Devious Maids,’ released her memoir in 2016 and played school administrator Collette Jones in the YouTube Red online series ‘Step Up: High Water’ starring Ne-Yo. The show is about a cutthroat performing arts school in Atlanta.    

Dental records were used to confirm it was her. 

Police say it appears Rivera ‘mustered enough energy to get her son back on the boat, but not enough to save herself’. 

She and her son had climbed off the boat and gone swimming. The boy told investigators that his mother helped him back aboard but when he looked back he saw her disappear into the water, Ayub said.

Ayub confirmed an adult life jacket was on board the boat and that the body recovered was not in a life jacket. He did not have details on if Rivera was able to swim. 

Ayub said swimming is allowed in the lake but that it is typically used for watercraft recreation. A petition was started Monday to ban swimming ‘in these dangerous waters’. 

He added that he hoped the discovery would bring some closure to her family. 

‘Finding out she’s missing and then this day to day, the wait and not knowing… hopefully this provides some level of closure,’ he said.  

The actress’s family rushed to the lake on Monday morning and some of her Glee castmates, including Heather Morris, were also there, as news of the discovery of a body broke. 

They held hands on the shore while waiting for more information from the star’s family and from the authorities. 

Rivera was found on the seventh anniversary of Naya’s former co-star Cory Monteith’s death. 

The autopsy confirmed Tuesday Rivera’s death was a tragic accident as her co-stars and fans shared tributes. 

Glee star Jane Lynch was the first to pay her respects as she took to Twitter on Monday morning to write:  ‘Rest sweet, Naya. What a force you were. Love and peace to your family.’

They both starred on the Fox series from 2009 to 2015; Rivera as cheerleader Santana Lopez and 59-year-old Lynch as coach Sue Sylvester. 

Lea Michele. Amber Riley and Kevin McHale also posted heartfelt messages to their ‘sweet’ and ‘stupidly talented’ friend.

Earlier Tuesday, the creators of Glee announced that they would be creating a college fund for Rivera’s son, and remembered her as a joyful and immensely talented performer.

‘Naya was more than just an actor on our show – she was our friend,’ Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan said in a statement.

‘Our hearts go out to her family, especially her mom, Yolanda, who was a big part of the Glee family, and her son Josey,’ the three producers said, referring to the child as ‘the beautiful son Naya loved most of all’.

Josey is Rivera’s son with her former husband, actor Ryan Dorsey. She called the boy ‘my greatest success, and I will never do any better than him’.

While she wasn’t initially hired as a Glee cast member, it ‘didn’t take more than an episode or two for us to realize that we had lucked into finding one of the most talented, special stars we would ever have the pleasure of working with,’ the producers added.

Rivera could act, sing, dance and ‘nail a joke as well as she could crush you with an emotional scene. … She was a joy to write for, a joy to direct and a joy to be around,’ they said.

In portraying a high school student in an openly lesbian relationship on Glee, Rivera ensured that her character’s love for her partner was ‘expressed with dignity, strength and with pure intentions’, they said. 

Among those mourning the actress were her co-star Jenna Ushkowitz, 34. 

Ushkowitz reflected on their shared ‘laughs, martinis and secrets’ in a heartfelt Instagram post. 

‘There are no words and yet so many things I want to say, I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to articulate exactly what I feel,’ the Tony Award-winning producer began, before diving into Rivera’s legacy of ‘humor, light and loyalty.’ 

‘Naya, you were a force and everyone who got to be around you knew it and felt the light and joy you exuded when you walked into a room,’ she reflected. ‘You shined on stage and screen and radiated with love behind closed doors. 

After praising her pal, the Broadway star shared a gut-wrenching statement: ‘I can not believe I took for granted that you’d always be here.’

While revealing their ‘friendship went in waves as life happens and we grow,’ she explained that she knows not to ‘look back and regret.’   

Respect: Jane Lynch was the first to pay her respects as she took to Twitter on Monday morning to write: 'Rest sweet, Naya. What a force you were. Love and peace to your family'

Respect: Jane Lynch was the first to pay her respects as she took to Twitter on Monday morning to write: ‘Rest sweet, Naya. What a force you were. Love and peace to your family’

No coincidence: McHale, 32, said Monteith and Rivera were 'the male and female versions of one another'

No coincidence: McHale, 32, said Monteith and Rivera were ‘the male and female versions of one another’ 

'Show some respect': A day prior, Rivera's co-star Amber Patrice Riley took to Twitter to urge her followers to show some respect for Naya's family and friends

‘Show some respect’: A day prior, Rivera’s co-star Amber Patrice Riley took to Twitter to urge her followers to show some respect for Naya’s family and friends

'There are no words and yet so many things I want to say, I don't believe I'll ever be able to articulate exactly what I feel,' Jenna Ushkowitz wrote; seen with Rivera in 2012

‘There are no words and yet so many things I want to say, I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to articulate exactly what I feel,’ Jenna Ushkowitz wrote; seen with Rivera in 2012

Heartfelt: The 34-year-old Glee alum joined the growing list of actors paying tribute to the late actress Naya Rivera, whose body was recovered from Lake Piru in Ventura County, California

Heartfelt: The 34-year-old Glee alum joined the growing list of actors paying tribute to the late actress Naya Rivera, whose body was recovered from Lake Piru in Ventura County, California 

RIP: Gwyneth posted a clip of herself, Naya, and Heather Morris covering Fleetwood Mac's 1975 song Landslide

Memories: It was a scene from the second season of the Fox musical series in an episode titled 'Sexy'

RIP: Gwyneth posted a clip of herself, Naya, and Heather Morris covering Fleetwood Mac’s 1975 song Landslide for a scene from the second season of the Fox musical series

The 47-year-old Goop founder wrote: 'Getting to sing in this trio with her was such a special moment. I am in utter shock and disbelief that someone so full of life and passion and talent is no longer with us. And completely heart broken for her family'

The 47-year-old Goop founder wrote: ‘Getting to sing in this trio with her was such a special moment. I am in utter shock and disbelief that someone so full of life and passion and talent is no longer with us. And completely heart broken for her family’

‘I love you and promise to help the legacy of your talent, humor, light and loyalty live on,’ she said of Rivera’s life.  

Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow also expressed her condolences for the accidental drowning death of her former Glee castmate in a touching post on Tuesday.

‘Remembering beautiful @nayarivera today,’ the 47-year-old Goop founder – who boasts 11.7M social media followers – wrote.

‘Getting to sing in this trio with her was such a special moment. I am in utter shock and disbelief that someone so full of life and passion and talent is no longer with us. And completely heart broken for her family.’ 

Rivera’s death is the latest death in a tragic arc of ‘Glee’ actors.  

Monteith died in 2013 – exactly seven years to the day before Rivera’s body was identified – from a toxic mix of alcohol and heroin.

Rivera’s ex-boyfriend Mark Salling, who played a jock on the series, killed himself in 2018 after pleading guilty to child pornography charges. Rivera and Salling dated for three years and broke up in 2010.

In the preface to her autobiography, Rivera wrote that motherhood had changed her life and given it perspective. She said she was braver, too.

‘Your life doesn’t have to be perfect for you to be proud. In fact, I think it´s the opposite: the more imperfect your life has been, the prouder you should be, because it means you’ve come that much further, and also probably had a lot more fun along the way.’  



Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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