Naya Rivera's Family Releases Statement Following Her Death: 'Heaven Gained Our Sassy Angel'
Naya Rivera's body was found at Lake Piru in Ventura County, California, five days after she was reported missing
Naya Rivera's family has released a public statement in the wake of the actress' tragic death.
Rivera was confirmed dead at the age of 33 on Monday — five days after she disappeared during a trip to California's Lake Piru with her 4-year-old son, Josey Dorsey.
"We are so grateful for the outpouring of love and prayers for Naya, Josey and our family over the past week. While we grieve the loss of our beautiful legend, we are blessed to honor her everlasting legacy and magnetic spirit," her family said in a statement to Deadline on Tuesday. "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. 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," the family added. "We kindly request that our privacy be respected during this very difficult time."
On July 8, Rivera and her son rented a pontoon boat at Lake Piru. When the boat became overdue for return after its three-hour rental, the staff at the lake found it at the north side of the water with the Glee alumna's sleeping son aboard.
A search-and-rescue operation was immediately undertaken at the lake. A day later, law officials announced that Rivera was presumed dead as the search shifted from a rescue mission to a recovery one.
Authorities searched the waters with the help of dive teams and sonar technology for days, but the murky conditions of the lake complicated their efforts. On Monday morning, the Ventura County Sheriff's Office tweeted that a body had been found in the lake.
"We are confident the body we found is that of Naya Rivera," Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub said in a news conference on Monday afternoon. "It has been an extremely difficult time for her family throughout this ordeal ... our hearts are with them and we share in their grief for Naya’s loss."
Lake Piru has been the site of several drownings over the years, and the actress' disappearance prompted a petition calling for signs warning swimmers of its dangerous conditions. Ayub noted that "swimming is allowed."
"He and Naya swam in the lake together," Ayub said of Rivera and her son. "It was during that time that her son described being helped onto the boat by Naya. ... He told investigators he looked back and saw her disappear under the surface of the water."
Ayub later added, "We believe that she mustered enough energy to get her son back on the boat, but not enough to save herself."
On Tuesday, the Ventura County Medical Examiner determined Rivera's cause of death as drowning and that the manner of her death was an accident.