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Glee actress Naya Rivera had long considered the picturesque Lake Piru in California to be her 'sanctuary', regularly retreating to its peaceful shores to escape the harsh spotlight of Hollywood.

But beneath its glittering surface, the lake that claimed her life in July last year harboured its own dark secrets.

From the perilous debris, freezing rip currents and whirlpools to the many other lives cut short in its murky depths, the star sadly wasn't the first person to die in mysterious circumstances there.

The 1,200-acre reservoir was created by flooding a steep, tree-lined canyon and constructing the Santa Felicia Dam in 1955.

Despite being a family favourite, the lake has proved to be lethal, with seven deaths recorded between 1994 and 2000 alone. And when a victim disappears, it can take weeks or months for a body to be found – if ever.

Naya Rivera drowned in the waters of Lake Piru last July while her son was found sleeping on their hire boat

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According to petitions, locals are too terrified to swim there. Not only do its murky depths – which reach up to 150ft in places – hide debris, but the lake floor is covered with eerie 20ft trees known to entrap bathers.

Added to that, there are submerged cliffs and drop offs, terrifying rips and cold columns of water that can prove fatal to even the most experienced swimmer. Winds strong enough to tip a sailboat howl across the lake.

And wearing a life vest is no protection. In August 1994, 27 year old Jesus Danilo Carranza mysteriously drowned while swimming in a life jacket. His body washed up on the shore five days later.

In July 1997, panicked father Liborio Dominguez jumped into the water in to save his young daughter when she fell from their boat. The child was rescued but Dominguez never resurfaced.

Lake Piru has claimed the lives of numerous victims
(Image: Rob Latour/REX/Shutterstock)

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Two months later Isidro Castillo, 22, decided to take a swim as his girlfriend watched on from their boat. Witnesses described how he suddenly got into difficulties but she couldn't get a buoy to him in time.

And that October, Ulises Anthony Mendoza, 30, was swimming with his family near their boat in 18 feet of muddy, choppy water when he mysteriously slipped under and drowned.

Local rumours that the lake is cursed were further fuelled in 1998 when lake employee Arthur Raymond Caladara died in mysterious circumstances. His body was found floating by the dock after he missed the start of his shift. He was believed to have fallen in and drowned.

For student Vy Xuan Dang, it would be an entire month before his body was found 500ft away from the dam he was last seen swimming near with his family in June 2000.

The alarm was raised when Naya didn't return her rental boat
(Image: Getty Images)

And that September, Eric Cruz, 25, was just 10ft from from the shore when he suddenly went under while trying to retrieve his toy boat.

In 2008, a second father, Anatoly Naftoli Smolyansky, vanished after jumping in to save his five-year-old daughter, and in 2010 nursing graduate Roberto Barrios, 36, drowned in front of 24 friends when the wind blew their boat away. He was found on the bottom of the lake two days later.

When actress Naya – who would have turned 34 today – went missing, her boat was in an area estimated to be 30 feet deep with 15 feet visibility.

But just hours later, visibility was so low that rescue divers had to search by touch and feel.

Beneath the water lies freezing currents and dangerous debris
(Image: Ventura Co. Sheriff)

Capt. Eric Buschow of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department told the Los Angeles Times: “That particular area, when it was searched by divers, they were literally crawling on hands and knees at the bottom of the lake attached by ropes so they could make their way back out because visibility is so poor.

“That gives you kind of an idea of what the conditions were like.”

The last person to see Naya alive was her four-year-old son Josey, who told officers she managed to hoist him aboard their boat before she 'disappeared' beneath the surface.

Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub told the Los Angeles Times: “There are a lot of currents on the lake that appear particularly in the afternoon. We believe it was mid-afternoon when she disappeared.

“The idea perhaps being… that she mustered enough energy to get her son back onto the boat, but not enough to save herself.”

A postmortem later found she had died by drowning and that her death had been an accident.

Have you ever been to Lake Piru? Share your experiences in the comments section below…