Lake Piru, the body of water in Southern California where Glee actress Naya Rivera was vacationing just 56 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, has long been known as a notorious spot for drownings thanks to its dangerous conditions, reports show.
The Los Angeles Times has reported over the years about multiple drownings in southern California, including deaths at Lake Piru, where the 33-year-old actress was boating with her son when she disappeared.
Rivera’s son was with his mother, who is now presumed to be dead. He was found safe on the boat where he was sleeping when authorities located him. He told his rescuers that his mother had gone swimming but hadn’t returned.
It’s not the first time that someone has gone into the water and hasn’t returned. In 1997, the L.A. Times covered three drownings in just two weeks. On July 4, 1997, Liborio Dominguez was one of those deaths when he drowned in the lake.
In several decades, there have been about a dozen such drownings thanks to the cold waters and high winds that threaten swimmers.
“Strong winds on Lake Piru often whip up waves that can rock a small boat enough to tip an unsteady fisherman into the water. The lake also holds deep columns of chilly water that can overwhelm people,” a ranger explained. “Lifeguards do patrol a swim area at the lake three days a week, but many of the problems occur outside this small zone.”
Most of the people who perished on the lake weren’t wearing life jackets and either assumed that they could handle the conditions or were inexperienced, the ranger explained. Rivera, too, left behind her life jacket when she entered the lake’s waters on Wednesday.
“The only thing I can emphasize is that if swimmers are around water, they need to wear a personal flotation device whether they know how to swim or not,” the ranger said. “That will save their lives.”
Authorities continue to search the lake for Rivera, though she is presumed dead at this point. The search was paused Wednesday night after dangerous conditions hampered the efforts of helicopters, ATVs, and dive teams. One Sheriff’s deputy said that visibility was down to almost 10 inches and there was lots of debris, such as trees, under the water.
The lake ranges from three or four feet to 50 feet deep, adding to the challenge.
Searchers hope to find the actress’s body so that her family can find some closure, authorities say.