Naya Rivera’s grieving father, George Rivera, says the pain of losing his daughter is unimaginable as he recounts the final FaceTime call they shared before her tragic death in July 2020.  

George, 64, says the late Glee actress reached out to him on the very day she rented a pontoon boat on California’s Lake Piru with her son Josey, who was 4 years old at the time. “She would always bounce stuff off me,” George tells People in a new interview for their latest June 2021 issue. “And she wanted to go swimming with Josey out in the middle of the lake.” 

Naya Rivera and Son Josey Dorsey
Courtesy Naya Rivera/Instagram

After discussing how the boat didn’t have an anchor to hold it in place, George said he worried that would put her in danger as he was an avid boater himself. “I could see that the wind was blowing, and my stomach was just cringing,” George shares about the concerns he had. “I kept telling her, ‘Don’t get out of the boat! Don’t get out of the boat! It will drift away when you’re in the water.'” 

George says their FaceTime call cut out after three minutes. “It was just heartbreaking,” he remembers. “I had this bad feeling that was just killing me.”  

On the afternoon of June 8, Josey was found asleep all by himself on the rented boat as it drifted on the waters of Lake Piru. After an extensive search of the premises by Ventura County’s rescue team and divers, Naya’s body was discovered floating in a remote section of the lake five days later on July 13. An autopsy confirmed her cause of death was an accidental drowning. Naya was only 33.

“It’s still pretty much a big blur of pain almost a year later,” George reveals. “Things are slowly coming a little more into focus, but I don’t know if I’ll ever find closure from this. I miss her every day.” 

Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP/Shutterstoc

Naya’s memory has since been honored by her former Glee costars, who sang their praises of the late star as an incredible performer and mother at the GLAAD Media Awards in April. Prior to that, Naya’s ex and father of her son, Ryan Dorsey, shared how proud he is of their 5-year-old in a heartfelt message. 

“At such a young age, [Josey has] endured more than anyone should at 5 years old. Without even fully realizing it, he lives the #keeppounding mantra every day with his [resilience],” Ryan, 37, who was married to Naya from July 2014 to June 2018, gushed. “You’re so strong, so brave and so kind. I will always be proud of you, and we will always #keeppounding b/c that’s all we can do.”

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