Naya Rivera’s dad is sharing new insights into how her young son Josey is coping after the “Glee” star died in a drowning accident at a Southern California lake last July.
With the first anniversary of Rivera’s death coming up in three weeks, George Rivera told “Entertainment Tonight” that 5½-year old Josey is a “really strong kid.”
Asked if the child mentions his mom often, the grandfather said the whole family, including Rivera’s sister Nickayla and Josey’s dad Ryan Dorsey, regularly field the boy’s inquiries.
“He does. I’ll tell you, Nickayla and Ryan are doing a really great job,” George Rivera said.
“Tough situation, especially because he was there,” he said, referring to how the child told law enforcement his mom boosted him into their boat before disappearing beneath the surface.
“It’s not like you’re talking about a ghost that’s floating around, right? He’s got memories as well, but boy is he coming around,” George Rivera said.
In this file photo, Naya Rivera and son Josey attend the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' "The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part" on February 2, 2019 in Westwood, Calif. (Gregg DeGuire/)
“We handle him and we talk to him just like he’s a 5-year-old going on six,” George Rivera said.
“It’s no different, but when he wants to talk about his mother, we talk about his mother, in conversation. He’s growing up and handling it really well,” he said.
Rivera, 33, shot to fame playing openly gay cheerleader Santana Lopez on the hit Fox series “Glee” from 2009 until 2015.
She became the subject of a desperate search operation July 8 at Lake Piru in Ventura County, northwest of Los Angeles, after Josey was found drifting alone in their rented boat.
Officials brought in divers, helicopters, cadaver dogs and drone aircraft as fans and colleagues clung to hope she might still be found alive.
Her body was recovered the morning of July 13, floating in the northeastern portion of the lake, officials said.
Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub said investigators determined Rivera and her son were swimming together before she apparently submerged.
“It was during that time that her son described being helped into the boat by Naya, who boosted him onto the deck from behind,” Ayub said. “He told investigators that he looked back and saw her disappear under the surface of the water.”
He said the lake’s strong currents likely played a role in the heartbreaking outcome.
“The idea perhaps being that the boat started drifting, it was unanchored. And that she mustered enough energy to get her son back onto the boat, but not enough to save herself,” he said.
The Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the death an accidental drowning with no evidence of traumatic injuries, disease or intoxication involved.
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