Authorities are using cadaver dogs and sonar in their search for missing actress Naya Rivera, who disappeared Wednesday while swimming in a beautiful but treacherous lake in the Topatopa Mountains of southern California.
Capt Eric Buschow told reporters that searchers had so far found no signs of the 33-year-old “Glee” star, who failed to return to rented pontoon boat she had taken out into the water with her 4-year-old son.
Another boater spotted the boat drifting in the lake several hours after Rivera and her son left the dock, as CrimeOnline previously reported. The boy was found sleeping on the boat and told investigators his mother had jumped in and not come back.
Buschow said that cadaver dogs are assisting dive teams in the search, sniffing the surface of the water for signs of decomposition. Divers would take a look if the dog hits on something, Buschow said, but so far, none have.
Other teams are using sonar to mark anomalies in the deeper portions of the lake, which are about 135 feet deep, he said. A remotely operated vehicle is sent down to investigation anomalies found by the sonar. Those searchers have also not found anything.
Buschow also described conditions in the lake, a reservoir formed by the Santa Felicia Dam on Piru Creek, a tributary of the Santa Clara River. He noted that the 1,240-acre lake, formed in a steep canyon in 1950, flooded trees, rocks, and other debris, making the lake bottom difficult to maneuver around. It’s also murky, he said, limiting visibility.
“Under the water, it’s a lot by feel. There’s a lot of shrubbery and sticks that we have to break through as we’re going through, so it’s kind of a braille search,” Max O’Brien, Ventura County search and rescue diver, told ABC7. “Even during the day, my first dive, I entered the water at 11 a.m., and I could only see a foot in front of me.”
Unlike natural lakes in the area, he said, Piru Creek creates a current flowing down out of the canyon in the lake, while winds kicking up most often blow in the opposite direction, at times creating harsh conditions, although Lake Piru Recreation Area along the western shore is a popular area for boating, fishing, swimming, and camping.
Finally, Buschow confirmed that United Water Conservation District, which owns the lake, already had plans to lower the lake levels by about half next month in order to do some maintenance work on the dam itself. If Rivera is not found by that time, he said, the lower lake levels will likely assist in the search.
Authorities have said they do not expect to find Rivera alive, but Buschow said the search would go on to bring closure for her family.
“We don’t know if she’s gonna be found five minutes from now or five days from now,” he said.
Rivera’s son was wearing a life preserver when he was found on the boat. An adult live preserver on the boat.
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[Feature image: Naya Rivera by Taylor Jewell/Invisiin/AP; AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu]