Naya Rivera's ex-husband files lawsuit, claims star's drowning 'utterly preventable'

The lawsuit aims “to hold the defendants accountable for their negligence in causing Naya’s death and in causing Josey, who witnessed Naya’s drowning, to suffer serious emotional distress.”
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Rivera at an event in Beverly Hills, California, on Oct. 7, 2017.Greg Doherty / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

The estate of late “Glee” actor Naya Rivera and the father of her son is suing, saying her July 8 drowning death at Lake Piru in California was “utterly preventable.”

Ryan Dorsey filed the wrongful death lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of his 5-year-son, Josey, in Ventura County. Rivera’s estate is also listed as a plaintiff.

They claim the county, United Water Conservation District and Parks Management Company are responsible for her death because the boat Rivera rented on that fateful day didn’t comply with safety standards, and there were no signs warning about the water or previous deaths on the lake.

A lawyer for Rivera’s estate and Dorsey, Amjad M. Khan who explained the lawsuit in a statement, argued that 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. Disturbingly, later inspection revealed that the boat was not even equipped with any flotation or lifesaving devices.”

Khan added that there was “not a single sign anywhere” warning of “dangerous conditions” on Lake Piru — which is known for strong currents, low visibility, high winds, and underwater caves, according to the lawsuit.

“And of course, there are no signs warning visitors about the dangers of swimming in the lake, to wear life vests when swimming or boating, or that dozens of others have drowned in Lake Piru,” Khan said in a statement.

The lawsuit also disputes Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub’s depiction of the last moments of Rivera’s life.

At a press conference in July, Ayub said Naya used the last of her strength to save her son.

“… Her son described being helped into the boat by Naya, who boosted him onto the deck from behind. He told investigators that he looked back and saw her disappear under the surface of the water,” Ayub said at the time.

Tuesday’s court filings tell a slightly different story.

“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,” the lawsuit, obtained by TODAY, reads. “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 lawsuit says Josey heard his mom cry for help.

“Josey searched in vain for rope to help his mother get back on the boat,” the lawsuit reads. “Josey then looked back at the water and saw that Naya had disappeared.”

In his release, Khan said the lawsuit aims “to hold the defendants accountable for their negligence in causing Naya’s death and in causing Josey, who witnessed Naya’s drowning, to suffer serious emotional distress.”

During the search for Rivera’s body, Deputy Chris Dyer said there were no signs of foul play or anything that went wrong "besides a tragic accident."

An autopsy done by the Ventura County Medical Examiner's Office in July ruled her death an accidental drowning.

A spokesperson for Ventura County said they had not yet been served with the lawsuit.

Lake Piru is about 56 miles north-northwest of Los Angeles.