Naya Rivera has been confirmed dead at just 33 years old by California police, but it was a news outlet and not police or family who first confirmed the horrifying news.
US entertainment site TMZ has come under fire after they broke the news that Naya’s body had been discovered before it had been confirmed by local police, who have been keeping the world and family of the star informed throughout the whole recovery operation.
Jaw-dropping screenshots show that 18 minutes after the Ventura County Sheriff Department confirmed an unidentified body had been located via a Tweet, the gossip site tweeted: ‘#BREAKING: Naya Rivera's Body Recovered from Lake Piru’, with a link to an article title: ‘Naya Rivera Dead at 33, Body Recovered From Lake Piru’.
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department confirmed the body was that of Naya four hours later at a press conference.
Fans ‘disgusted’ by early ‘confirmation’
Now, irate fans have taken to Twitter, furious that TMZ broke the news before officials had confirmed it to the public, some even wondering if the family had been informed before the news site broke the story.
“Can we just note the fact that TMZ reported that Naya Rivera was dead before law enforcement even confirmed,” one person wrote. “They are honestly awful. They did the same exact thing with Kobe. Somebody please get rid of them.”
Kobe Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, broke fans’ hearts earlier this year when she revealed she was informed of her husband’s death by the headlines before officials notified the family.
Others agreed, slamming the site for not learning from the heartbreaking revelation earlier this year.
“TMZ reporting Naya Rivera’s death before her own family was even notified is absolutely disgusting,” another Twitter user wrote, though it has not been confirmed that the site broke the story before the family was informed.
One fan of the star even started up a change.org petition calling for an end to the ‘unethical’ reporting on celebrity deaths.
“First they announce Kobe’s death publicly before his family even gets informed about it, and now they’re already announcing Naya Rivera’s death before the body is even confirmed to be her by the authorities,” the fan wrote in a furious tweet sharing the petition link.
Another described the situation as ‘gross’.
“SO incredibly disheartened that TMZ thinks it’s okay to post about Naya passing before it was even confirmed & they pinned it to their Twitter page,” the fan wrote. “Gross. Have some respect.”
The site claims ‘law enforcement sources’ confirmed the news to them of the identity of the body, leading some to defend the site, arguing it was the police informing them, and not the reporters who should be held accountable.
“I wouldn't blame TMZ for doing their job reporting the news...” one woman wrote. “Blame the person who informed them first before the families.”
“Its not TMZ job to inform the families before releasing news, its the cops and I know that’s a touchy subject right now... but TMZ is just doing their job...”
The Ventura County Sherrif Department confirmed at the press conference that they had kept family abreast of all developments.
"Her family has been at the lake every day, holding out hope and communicating with investigators and our staff,” Sheriff Bill Ayub told gathered press this morning.
“We've been in constant communication with them and we've given them information before making it publicly available.”
Ventura County Sherriff Department confirms Naya Rivera dead
Naya was confirmed dead this morning during the press conference held at the lake hours after TMZ’s breaking story.
“We are confident the body we found is that of Naya Rivera,” Sheriff Bill Ayub said.
“She was found near the surface of the water,” the Sheriff continued, saying the depth of the water in that area is between 35 and 65 feet deep, with heavy brush and trees under the lake bed.
“As you can imagine it’s been an extremely difficult time for her family throughout this ordeal as fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, our hearts are with them and we share their grief for Naya’s loss.”
The Sheriff went on to say that there was no indication of foul play or no indication that her death was a suicide.
The police department said Naya’s son, Josey, said the pair went swimming and he was helped back up on to the boat by his mum, “who boosted him on to the deck from behind”.
The Sheriff said it would be speculation to say at this point how the events unfolded, however there are a lot of currents that appear on the lake, particularly in the afternoon, and they believe “perhaps 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”.
Josey was found a few hours later by a leasing agent after Naya failed to return the boat.
He was wearing his life jacket and wrapped in a towel. An adult-sized life jacket was found on the boat.
Her body was discovered five days after the 33-year-old disappeared at the lake, where her son was found alone on July 8 on a boat the two had rented, the Ventura County Sheriff's Office said.
Additional reporting by Sarah Carty