Mayor of Dover backs balloon release for crash victims

DOVER – The Mayor of Dover, Robin Christiansen, saw the many balloons that dozens of grieving students had brought to Schutte Park for a memorial service on Wednesday afternoon.

A crowd of over 200 gathered to honor the lives of Blue Evans of Dover High and Jensen Reed of Caesar Rodney, two 17-year-old students who died in a car crash near Milford on February 17.

Mayor Christiansen was well aware of laws passed by the state of Delaware last September that made the mass release of balloons illegal.

But he thought it was worth ignoring him in this case, as families, students and friends hoped to find some solace in the wake of a community tragedy.

“They came together peacefully to honor the lives of these young men who left us far too soon,” Mayor Christiansen said. “It would have been contrary to the spirit of those who sought comfort and closure and not confrontation.

“I take responsibility for allowing what was an innocent expression of grief. If it was a criminal act or activity, I certainly would have stopped it. I would do it again. Rather comfort than confront Heal rather than hurt, in this case.

Dr. Vilicia Cade, superintendent of the Dover Capital School District, had brought several bottles of bubbles for students to use to honor the memory of Blue and Jensen.

However, seeing the emotions of the students and their desire to commemorate their classmates with a balloon release, Mayor Christiansen said he would override the rules in this case and take the heat for any repercussions.

It is unclear whether any fees will be charged in connection with the massive balloon release.

Governor John Carney signed Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 24 in September 2001, a law that prohibited the intentional release of balloons filled with air or lighter-than-air gases.

Dropping four or fewer balloons is considered a loose impediment and a first offense is punishable by a fine of at least $25. A massive release of five or more balloons results in a civil fine of $250 and up to eight hours of community service on the first offense.

While releasing a conglomeration of balloons – the combined colors of blue, gold and white – for Dover and Caesar Rodney High Schools may have been illegal, it still gave everyone time. gathered at the service to reflect and remember as the balloons slowly rose into the sky and faded away.

Pastor Donald Ashley, of Greater Life Christian Church in Dover, said a prayer for Blue and Jensen before the balloons were released.

“The balloons were symbolic and also surreal of their souls leaving their bodies and being sent back to their creator,” Pastor Ashley said. “It’s really symbolic and a good example of how this life and death thing works.”

Tucker Reed, Jensen’s older brother, was also moved by the experience of seeing the balloons soar into the skies.

“They are going where they need to be, but we all miss them here,” he said.

The mass balloon release certainly caused a stir on the Delaware State News Facebook page on Thursday, with an influx of mostly negative views towards the gesture.

“Beautiful feelings but NOT BALLOONS!!! Seriously!” Sue Harris wrote. “These kids should have learned why NOT balloons and maybe release bubbles. I’m sure there is something that will benefit the environment, not harm it. A moment of learning passed by the wayside. Maybe the comments will help the kids understand why balloons weren’t such a good choice.

Chree Duncan said it was sometimes okay to ignore the rules, especially when dealing with grieving students.

“These kids have been through hell this week and they all needed a positive outlet to ease their emotions and show their love,” she wrote. “Our young people must be just as important as the wildlife! I commend all of our children for approaching their grief in a positive way.

Tanassa Tabor agreed that the students needed an outlet to express their grief.

“These kids are going through a tough time and of course you’re all here (Facebook) complaining!!” she wrote. “Yes, they could have done something other than drop balloons, but so what? And we wonder why our children keep their emotions to themselves.

Andrew Martin has written that balloon releases are heinous and amount to nothing more than rubbish.

“I work for a nonprofit conservation organization, and it’s rare that a day goes by without finding balloons over the natural areas we manage,” Martin said. “They take forever to break down, are harmful to wildlife and are generally an eyesore. Anyone who thinks it was a good idea should be fined.

Mayor Christiansen thought it was a good idea and said he would do it again given the tragic circumstances.