Naya Rivera's Dad Recalls Gut-Wrenching Final Call With Glee Star Before Her Death

Naya Rivera accidentally drowned after going for a swim during a boating excursion with her son Josey last July. In a new interview, her father, George Rivera, remembers their last FaceTime call.

By Elyse Dupre Jun 09, 2021 3:11 PMTags
Watch: Naya Rivera's Father Recalls Telling Her: "Don't Get Out of the Boat”

It's a moment that will forever haunt Naya Rivera's dad George.

On July 8 of last year, his daughter and grandson Josey were boating on Lake Piru in Southern California when the Glee star FaceTimed him with a question: Would it be safe to go out for a swim?

"I could see that the wind was blowing and my stomach was just cringing," he recalled to People magazine. "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.'"

Just a few minutes later, when their call cut short, George "had this bad feeling that was just killing me."

Unfortunately, his gut was right. Later that day, Josey was found alone in the boat with Naya, 33, nowhere to be found. It would take five days to recover her body, found floating on the lake's surface in the early hours of July 13. An autopsy detailed her cause of death as an accidental drowning. 

Naya Rivera: Life in Pictures

"It's still pretty much a big blur of pain almost a year later," George said. "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/Shutterstock

So do her fans and family—and they've found ways to honor her immeasurable legacy. In April, for instance, several Glee cast members reunited for an emotional tribute to their late co-star, who played Santana Lopez, at the GLAAD Media Awards. "Her best role was her being a mom," Jenna Ushkowitz said. "That was the most fulfilling to see her do that."

Today, her memory—her strength—live on through Josey. "This little couldn't be any prouder of someone," her ex Ryan Dorsey wrote on Instagram while celebrating their son's fifth birthday in January. "At such a young age, he's endured more than anyone should at 5 years old. Without even fully realizing it, he lives the #keeppounding mantra every day with his resilance [sic]. 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."