Naya Rivera is missing and presumed dead after her four-year-old son, Josey, was found alone on a boat in California.

The star, who is best known for her fan-favourite role as Santana Lopez on Glee (2009-2015), rented a pontoon boat on Lake Piru on Wednesday afternoon (8 July) with her son.

A passerby contacted authorities after finding Josey alone and asleep in the boat, where police also found Rivera’s life jacket and her car parked nearby on shore.

According to TMZ, Josey told investigators that his mother jumped in the water and didn’t return. The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department scoured the area until dark, but no trace of her was found. The search will continue today.

In a statement, Captain Eric Buschow – spokesperson for the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office – said: “Indications are that we believe she did go in the lake. At this point it’s still a search and that’s what we know up to this point.

“The [son] said that he had been swimming with his mother and that she got back in the boat and her mum didn’t. ‘We know that the [son] had a life vest on, there was another adult life vest found on the boat.

“It’s somewhat challenging interviewing a three-year-old. We’re going on the belief that she did go in the water, and we’ve not been able to locate her. This may well be a case of drowning.”

Hours before Naya went missing, she posted a photo with her son alongside the caption: “Just the two of us.”

Naya’s former Glee co-stars shared moving messages on social media, with her on-screen love interest, Heather Morris, tweeting: “We need all the prayers we can get to bring our Naya home to us. We need your love and light.”

Harry Shum Jr. said he was “praying” and Demi Lovato – who had a six-episode arc on the beloved musical comedy – asked for her followers to pray for @nayarivera to be found safe and sound.”