Local governments and private property owners have the important duty of keeping their recreational facilities safe. In one tragic case, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed over the death of Glee actor Naya Rivera who died while boating with her four-year-old son in a Ventura County lake in July. The county and lake managers did not provide safety equipment and warnings, according to this personal injury lawsuit.
July 8 accidental death
The 33-year-old actress rented a pontoon boat on Lake Piru, located north-west of Los Angeles, on July 8. The man who rented her the boat said she declined a life-vest, but he still placed one onboard.
When the actor and her son were swimming, current and winds started to carry away the boat, according to the lawsuit. Winds gusted up to 21 mph.
Inaccurate reports claimed that the actress boosted the boy aboard the boat. But he got aboard himself, according to the suit. He heard Rivera yell for help as she struggled to get back aboard before disappearing. The plaintiff charged that Rivera may have been unaware that her son returned to the boat, but she knew that she was dying and could not return to her son.
Later that afternoon, her son was located on the drifting boat while he was alone and sleeping. Five days later, Rivera’s body was found floating in a 30-foot-deep area of the lake. Her body was likely trapped in thick underwater vegetation for several days before floating to the surface, according to the Ventura County sheriff’s office.
The autopsy found that River was a good swimmer. The report listed her death as an accident.
The wrongful death lawsuit was filed on Nov. 17 against Ventura County and the lake’s managers on behalf of her estate and her son by his father and guardian and Rivera’s ex-husband. Despite the death being ruled as an accident, the plaintiffs charged that the defendants were negligent.
The plaintiffs alleged that there were no signs containing warnings of the lake’s strong currents, poor visibility, high winds, and other dangers even though at least 26 people drowned in the lake since 1959.
The pontoon boat was not equipped with a safely accessible ladder, radio, rope anchor or other equipment that would prevent swimmers from being separated from the vessel. Also, according to the lawsuit, the boat was not equipped with life preservers or other flotation or lifesaving devices.
Families who suffer the loss of a loved one because of another person’s negligence may be entitled to compensation and damages. An attorney can pursue their rights in a legal action.