Naya Rivera's family have paid an emotional tribute to their daughter and sister just two days after she was confirmed to have died in Lake Piru, California. Breaking their silence on the tragedy, the Glee star's family - parents Yolanda and George Rivera, brother Mychal Rivera, and her sister Nickayla Rivera - shared a statement with Deadline:
"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. Naya was an amazing talent but was an even greater person, mother, daughter, and sister," it read.
"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."
Signing off their statement, the family said: "Heaven gained our sassy angel. We kindly request that our privacy be respected during this very difficult time."
Naya Rivera's cause of death was confirmed by the county medical examiner earlier this week as drowning by accident, following an autopsy.
A body, which was later positively identified as the actress, was found in a north-eastern portion of the lake near the surface of the water on 13 July, six days after Rivera went missing in Lake Piru. The alarm was first raised about the 33-year-old's disappearance on Wednesday last week (8 July) when Rivera's four-year-old son Josey was found alone and asleep in a drifting boat. Mother and son had rented the boat for the afternoon, where they both got out and swam - but only Josey, who was wearing his life jacket when he was discovered in the vessel, returned. The other, adult-sized life jacket was found unused in the boat along with the child.
In a press conference earlier this week, Sheriff Bill Ayub said that, while none of the details surrounding Naya Rivera's death could yet be confirmed, officers believed she spent her final moments ensuring the safety of her son.
"It would be speculation to say at this point, [but] there are a lot of currents on the lake that appear particularly in the afternoon," said the Sheriff. "We believe it was mid-afternoon when she disappeared, the idea perhaps being that the boat started drifting - it was unanchored - and that she mustered enough energy to get her son back on to the boat, but not enough to save herself."
The medical examiner's report is in keeping with this theory, labelling the actress' death an "accident". The document read: "The body of a woman found in Lake Piru on Monday July 13, 2020 has been confirmed as Naya Marie Rivera. The cause of death is drowning, and the manner of death accident."
The report confirmed that "no traumatic injuries or disease processes were identified" during the autopsy, and also noted that there is "no indication from the investigation or examination that drugs or alcohol played a role in the decedent's death." However, toxicology testing will take place as part of a standard procedure.
Our thoughts are with Naya Rivera's friends and families at this difficult time.
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