2 face felony charges over balloon pollution in Biscayne Bay; could face time in prison

A 26-year-old woman and a 29-year-old man are facing criminal charges over the disposal of balloons into Biscayne Bay after these were used to decorate a yacht during a marriage proposal.

MIAMI – A 26-year-old woman and a 29-year-old man are facing criminal charges over the disposal of balloons into Biscayne Bay after they were used to decorate a yacht during a marriage proposal.

A witness shared a video on Instagram and environmentalists were outraged. Marine animals often mistake the nonbiodegradable deflated balloons for jellyfish. Turtles eat it. Seabirds feed it to their young.

Miami-Dade police officers also issued civil citations with more than $23,000 in fines for the illegal dumping at the Bayshore Landing Marina in Coconut Grove. This has been a more painful learning experience for Martina Gaspoz and David Torres-Bocanegra, who were both working on the boat.

Officers arrested Gaspoz on Friday and Torres-Bocanegra on Wednesday. They are facing charges of willful disregard for the environment, a third-degree felony punishable with a fine of up to $50,000 or imprisonment for 5 years, or both. Gaspoz’s bond was set at $5,000.

Torres-Bocanegra initially was arrested on a charge of reckless disregard for the environment, a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable with a fine of up to $10,000 or 60 days in jail, or both. His bond was set at $500. Detective Angel Rodriguez later clarified there was a mistake with the charge.

Detectives did not consider the couple who got engaged on Tuesday to be the culprits. Instead, officers issued citations to the two companies — the event planner and the yacht charter — that the future groom hired.

Also, not everyone who received a $2,510 citation actually touched the balloons or was present for the celebration.

Dessideria D’Caro De Capriles, of Doral, is the owner of the charter yacht. Gabriela Castillo was the event coordinator. Francisco Feo was the person in charge of the charter company. Officers also cited Tulio Capriles, Iulia Tyshchenko, Viacheslav Diadiura, and Efrain Hernandez.

Environmental advocates want Miami-Dade officials to do more.

The Florida Ocean CleanUp Society, a nonprofit organization, set up a Change.org petition asking Miami-Dade’s Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, the chief bay officer, and commissioners to pilot a new ordinance banning balloons and confetti in coastal waters.

“Banning balloons and confetti isn’t going to solve the pollution problem. However, we believe it’s important and necessary to spark a cultural shift,” the petitioner wrote adding, “We beg the Miami-Dade County to pass legislation to protect our ecosystem and increase environmental awareness among boaters and the charter industry.”

For more stories about protecting Biscayne Bay, visit the Don’t Trash Our Treasure page. Local 10 News Environmental Advocate Louis Aguirre leads the team.

Related social media

Watch the related reports

Don’t Trash Our Treasure: 6 p.m., May 11

Environmentalists have a request for boaters in South Florida: Don't tie up balloons on your boat. These will harm wildlife.

Night report: 11 p.m., May 11

Tom Rivas said he chartered a yacht for an engagement proposal. Cloud Nine, which specializes in romantic proposals, helped him to plan the event. It all went smoothly. She said, “Yes!” But hours later, the fitness coach’s event was associated with pollution in Biscayne Bay. Officers arrested one suspect and issued nine citations on Wednesday.

Afternoon report: 4 p.m., May 11

Investigators aim to identify a man who was recently disposing of balloons in Biscayne Bay.


About the Authors:

Bridgette Matter joined the Local 10 News team as a reporter in July 2021. Before moving to South Florida, she began her career in South Bend, Indiana and spent six years in Jacksonville as a reporter and weekend anchor.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.