Rivera and her son were enjoying a day out at Lake Piru when she accidentally drowned. Her body was recovered five days later, on July 13, after an extensive search.
Naya Rivera was just 33 years old when she lost her life to a tragic drowning accident while her then 4-year-old son was present at the scene of the incident to witness it all.
The Glee actress was enjoying some personal time with her son Josey, who she shared with ex-husband Ryan Dorsey, on July 8, 2020, at Lake Piru, when the tragedy took place. According to a report from Ventura County as per CNN, Rivera and her son jumped into the water and a while later she asked her son to get back to the boat. "She helped him onto the boat and he then heard (his mother) yell 'help' and she put her arm in the air. She then disappeared into the water," stated the report.
The autopsy and investigative report revealed that the actress had no history of "suicidal ideation or attempt" and so her death was declared as death by drowning. It also stated that Rivera suffered from vertigo which got worse when they got in the water, however, she was reported to be a good swimmer with no symptoms of COVID-19 either.
The incident came to light when a rental employee went to check on the pontoon boat that was past due for return, hours after the actress had drowned. Jose was found sleeping on the boat wearing a life jacket, wrapped up in a towel. The employee revealed that Rivera was offered a life jacket which she had declined. Despite her refusal, a life jacket was provided to her which she wasn't wearing when she was found five days after her disappearance.
Four months after her tragic demise, her ex-husband Ryan Dorsey filed a wrongful death suit on behalf of Rivera's son, now 5, in November. Radar Online reported that in the court documents obtained by the outlet, the 5-year-old is suing Josey Ventura County, California, United Water Conservation District, and the county’s Parks and Recreation Management for wrongful death and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
In the paperwork that was filed on November 15, 2020, it is claimed that her death was preventable, however, because there was no safety equipment in the boat that Rivera rented, the tragedy took place.
"[The boat] was not equipped with a safely accessible ladder, adequate rope, an anchor, a radio or any security mechanisms to prevent swimmers from being separated from their boats," stated the complaint filed.
It further read, "Disturbingly, later inspection revealed that the boat was not even equipped with any flotation or lifesaving devices, in direct violation of California law, which requires that all pontoons longer than 16 feet be equipped with flotation devices."
The documents also noted that the lake has previously had a deadly history about which Rivera wasn't warned. It said that there was not "a single sign anywhere — not at the entrance, at the dock, at the popular swimming area of Diablo Cove, not anywhere — warning of the lake's strong currents, low visibility, high winds, changing water depths, underwater caves, ledges, and drop-offs, or the trees, brush and other debris that congests its waters due to the vastly changing water levels and winds."
According to the documents, The Master of Disguise actress wasn't the first one to become a victim of a drowning incident at Lake Piru. "More than two dozen people have drowned in Lake Piru since 1959."
Ventura County Sheriff Sgt. Kevin Donoghue had previously confirmed the same to People as he disclosed that the "area is notorious for the winds." He had also added, "Sometimes it can take several days before we find any clues or have a recovery."
Dorsey, 37, who had been married to Rivera from 2014 to 2018 paid a heartbreaking tribute to his ex-wife on Instagram. He penned, "This is so unfair...there's not enough words to express the hole left in everyone's hearts. I can't believe this is life now. I don't know if I'll ever believe it. You were just here. We were just in the back swimming with Josey the day before."
Thanking for the good times that he shared with Rivera and their "sweetest and kindest smart little boy," he continued, "Life is all about good times and bad times but with Josey it makes the bad a little less so because a part of you will always be with us," he continued and added, "He'll never forget where he came from."