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Naya Rivera's family files wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of her son

Taryn Ryder
·Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
·3-min read

Watch: Naya Rivera’s ex-husband files wrongful death lawsuit

Naya Rivera’s ex-husband, Ryan Dorsey, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of their 5-year-old son Josey.

Josey is suing Ventura County, California, where the Glee star went missing on 8 July, along with United Water Conservation District and the county’s Parks Management Company (PMC) for the “utterly preventable drowning.” Ryan and Rivera’s estate submitted paperwork on Tuesday as Josey is a minor. The actor’s body was recovered on 13 July.

According to the lawsuit viewed by Yahoo Entertainment, Rivera’s family claims the pontoon boat she rented for her and her son lacked proper safety equipment. It says 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.”

Read more: Ryan Dorsey hits out at speculation on his relationship with Naya Rivera’s sister

Naya Rivera's family believes the pontoon boat she rented was unsafe.
Naya Rivera's family believes the pontoon boat she rented was unsafe. (Photo: Reuters)

“Disturbingly, later inspection revealed that the boat was not even equipped with any flotation or lifesaving devices,” it reads, which is “in direct violation of California law.” The document alleges PMC rented Rivera an old boat that had not been refurbished and did not comply with Coast Guard safety standards.

Ryan and Rivera’s estate also call out the lack of signage at Lake Piru as there’s “not a single sign anywhere” about the water’s strong currents and high winds. Swimming is no longer permitted after Rivera and “at least 26 other people” drowned since the recreational facilities opened, according to the lawsuit. It also goes into tragic details about that July day.

“While Naya and Josey were swimming, the boat started to be carried away — likely by the current and wind, which gusted up to 21 miles per hour that afternoon. Josey, who was closer, managed to get back on the boat on his own volition and braced himself on the boat, which was rocking back and forth forcefully in the current and wind,” the document states.

Naya Rivera drowned at Lake Piru in California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Naya Rivera drowned at Lake Piru in California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Rivera’s autopsy report stated that winds reached as high as 21 mph the afternoon she went missing. It also noted that she was a “good swimmer.”

Read more: Naya Rivera’s family pay tribute to ‘sassy angel’

“Josey knew Naya was still in the water, and heard her cry, ‘Help! Help!’ In her struggle to get back to the boat and avoid drowning,” the lawsuit adds. “Josey searched in vain for rope to help his mother get back on the boat. Josey then looked back at the water for his mother, and saw that Naya had disappeared. Josey yelled for help and cried alone in the boat until he was found more than an hour later by a PMC boat leasing agent.”

Naya Rivera and son Josey Hollis Dorsey. (Photo by CHRIS DELMAS/AFP via Getty Images)
Naya Rivera and son Josey Hollis Dorsey. (Photo by CHRIS DELMAS/AFP via Getty Images)

It’s believed that Rivera’s final act was saving the life of her son. Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub said Josey told investigators the actor “boosted him” onto the deck of the boat from behind. The sheriff added it’s likely “that she mustered enough energy to get her son back on to the boat, but not enough to save herself.”

Nothing came back in Rivera’s toxicology report to change that the cause of death was drowning and the manner of death an accident. The lawsuit calls out the defendants’ “subsequent attempts to discredit Naya in the media and distract from their own negligence.”

Watch: Ryan Dorsey shares first photo of son Josey since Naya Rivera’s death