MIAMI – The decision to use dozens of balloons to decorate a yacht during a recent marriage proposal in Miami turned out to be really costly for a group of people. The lesson authorities want the public to learn: It’s a crime to dispose of balloons in Biscayne Bay.
A 29-year-old man, who was fined $2,510 for illegal dumping, is at risk of facing up to $10,000 in fines and time in jail. Nine others — including Dessideria D’Caro De Capriles, the owner of the charter yacht — are facing about $23,000 in total fines.
David Torres-Bocanegra, of Homestead, told detectives on Wednesday that he was the man who dropped about 50 balloons into the water on Tuesday at the Bayshore Landing Marina in Miami’s Coconut Grove, according to the arrest form.
“Jesus is alive,” Torres-Bocanegra said after walking out of jail on Thursday afternoon. When reporters asked him if he cared about the environment, he said, “Of course!”
None of it would have happened had it not been for a witness who was appalled, recorded the video, and shared it on Instagram. Environmentalists were outraged. Marine animals often mistake the nonbiodegradable deflated balloons for jellyfish. Turtles eat it. Seabirds feed it to their young.
Police and prosecutors worked together. Officers arrested Torres-Bocanegra at about 9:20 p.m., on Wednesday, in Homestead. Corrections officers booked him at about 3:35 a.m., on Thursday, at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center.
Tom Rivas, a Miami fitness coach, entrusted the planning of his romantic proposal to Cloud Nine, a family-owned company that alleged a vendor dealt with the balloons and they were not involved in the disposal.
Officers issued Cloud Nine and HD2 Yacht Service each a $2,510 civil citation. Also, Gabriela Castillo, the event coordinator, and Francisco Feo, the person in charge of the charter company, each received $2,510 citations.
Officers also cited Tulio Capriles, Iulia Tyshchenko, Viacheslav Diadiura, and Efrain Hernandez, records show. The citations did not specify their involvement.
Torres-Bocanegra is facing a charge of reckless disregard for the environment, a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 or 60 days in jail, or both. His bond was $500.
Miami-Dade Police Director George Perez said the department is still investigating the incident, and is committed to cracking down on illegal dumping and littering.
“I absolutely did not expect it to get national attention, but I did expect the community to really be outraged,” he said. “Message to our audience: we’re watching, we’re responsive. If you have information, bring it forward to us and we’re going to be happy to go after it.”
Perez and Local 10 News environmental advocate Louis Aguirre helped lead a community clean-up along the Julia Tuttle Causeway for Earth Day. He said he partnership between the police and the community has helped bring awareness to environmental issues.
It has also helped bring in tips on the balloon popping incident.
“Because of the awareness that Channel 10 has brought to this matter, we are getting tips. And that’s just another testament to our community, trusting its police department,” he said. “We’re so glad that Louis Aguirre featured this and amplified the voice of the original poster, and we took immediate action.”
In the wake of the balloon issue, an online petition was started with the goal of having balloons on banned on beaches, boats and coastal areas of Miami.
“We have almost 2000 signatures in two days and we truly believe that banning balloons on boats can spark the culture shift we need in Miami,” said Juan Pablo Ortega of Salty Miami. “Even the guy who was getting engaged and hired the yacht signed and shared the petition.”
To view the petition, click here.
Read the arrest form’s narrative
Watch the related reports
Don’t Trash Our Treasure: 6 p.m., May 11
Night report: 11 p.m., May 11
Afternoon report: 4 p.m., May 11