Tragedy struck when the actress from the TV show Glee, Naya Rivera, took her son, Josey, out for a day of fun on Lake Piru. But this mom’s final act ended up saving the 4-year-old boy!
On July 8, 2020, Glee actress Naya Rivera rented a pontoon boat and took her 4-year-old son out onto Lake Piru in California. At some point, though, something went terribly wrong.
Search crews deployed when 4-year-old Josey was discovered all alone on the pontoon boat. No one knew exactly what happened, but everyone longed to find Naya Rivera, age 33, safe and sound.
“Her family has been at the lake every day holding out hope and communicating with our investigators,” Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub said.
Actress From Glee, Naya Rivera, Found Dead
Tragically, however, the actress’s body turned up five days later and an autopsy confirmed drowning as the cause of her death.
"Heaven gained our sassy angel," her family said in a statement.
Naya and Josey had jumped into the lake for a swim and authorities suspect that’s when things took their tragic turn.
Naya may have lost her life. But she made certain her death wasn’t in vain. The Glee actress fought with everything she had left and Naya Rivera mustered enough strength to get her 4-year-old to safety before succumbing to the current.
"We believe it was mid-afternoon when she disappeared, the idea perhaps being that the boat started drifting - it was unanchored - and that she mustered enough energy to get her son back on to the boat, but not enough to save herself,” Sheriff Bill Ayub explained.
It’s utterly heartbreaking that Naya couldn’t make it to safety, too. But as a loving mother, there’s comfort in knowing she was able to save her beloved son.
Mom’s Final Act Saves Son
Josey didn’t realize what was happening as his mom “boosted him” back onto the deck from the back of the boat.
"He told investigators that he looked back and saw her disappear under the surface of the water," Sheriff Ayub said.
One day, Josey will come to realize the sacrifice his mom made for him. And those close to Glee actress Naya Rivera say it’s no surprise she used what was left of her strength to make sure her son survived.
"Josey was her world. She would do anything for that boy, including giving her own life for his. That’s who she was," one friend said. "Everyone is absolutely devastated."
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Another friend said Josey completely changed Naya’s life. The actress once explained that the unconditional love she felt for her son was the most surprising thing about becoming a mom.
"You hear about it and you think, ‘Well, obviously I'm going to love my child.' But it's so deep. Even after Josey goes to bed, I find myself thinking of him and looking at pictures of him and it almost brings me to tears half the time, because the love that I have for him is so amazing," she said.
"I hope to instill good morals and values in him," said Naya Rivera of Glee fame in another interview. "I want to teach him to be confident but kind, strong but not proud, and to always be in love with life."
Selfless Mom Honored By Others
The sudden loss of Naya Rivera hit her loved ones hard.
"We are so grateful for the outpouring of love and prayers for Naya, Josey and our family over the past week. While we grieve the loss of our beautiful legend, we are blessed to honor her everlasting legacy and magnetic spirit. Naya was an amazing talent, but was an even greater person, mother, daughter and sister," her family said in a statement.
They also thanked all of the rescue crews who worked so relentlessly to find Naya.
This mom’s deep love for her son was no secret. And in Naya Rivera’s honor, Glee producers Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan are setting up a college fund for 4-year-old Josey.
Additionally, several friends and former castmates from the show gathered together at Lake Piru to remember her.
This photo of the cast of #Glee gathering together at Lake Piru today where #NayaRivera's body was found is incredibly powerful - especially when you consider today is the 7 year anniversary of Cory Monteith's death. I'm a mess. pic.twitter.com/RhY9hUb78E
- Dave Quinn (@NineDaves) July 13, 2020
It’s heartbreaking to know Josey will now grow up without his mom by his side.
But as he gets older, he can look back at the unconditional love his mom had for him. And we pray it will be a reminder of the unconditional love the Lord has for each one of us, too.