A second person was arrested after a video shared on Instagram showed people popping dozens of balloons and dropping pieces into the bay at a marina in Coconut Grove.
Ten people and businesses – including event organizers and the owner of a yacht – were slapped with citations and fined over $25,000according to Miami-Dade police.
On Friday, police said Martina Gaspoz, 26, of Miami, was charged with a crime of willful disregard for the environment. She told police “she was ashamed of what they had done,” according to her arrest report.
On Thursday, David Torres-Bocanegra, 29, of Homestead was arrested after police said he popped about 50 balloons Tuesday on a yacht docked at Bayshore Landing Marina, 2550 S. Bayshore Dr.
Torres-Bocanegra later confessed, according to his arrest report. He is facing a felony charge of reckless disregard for the environment. He posted $500 bond and has since been released.
The balloons can be mistaken for food by sea turtles and, if eaten, can lead to internal injury, starvation and death, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. They can also be harmful to other marine species.
“As a community, we share a responsibility to protect our environment,” Miami-Dade Acting Police Superintendent George A. Perez said Thursday in a news release. “Our coastal waterways are the natural beauty of our county, and our marine life depends on us to keep them safe.”
A marriage proposal gone wrong
The burst balloon incident happened after a marriage proposal, according to RPC Cloud Nine, an event organization company. On an Instagram post on Wednesday, the company said it was not responsible for removing the balloons of the yacht and that he will no longer use them at events near the water.
“We are sorry for the situation in which we have been involved and are now aware of the damage it has caused to our environment,” the company wrote.
A copy of one of the citations provided by police shows the company received a $2,500 civil violation notice for illegal dumping in a waterway in connection with the incident.
The company’s president, Iuliia Tyshchenko, and its vice president, Viacheslav Diadiura, were also each given a civil violation notice for $2,500.
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Others cited were: HD2 Yacht Service 3 Maintenance, the company responsible for chartering the vessel; Tulio Manases Capriles Mendoza; Francisco Jesus Feo Mendoza, the manager of the charter company; Gabriela A. Castillo, event coordinator; Desideria D. Caro de Capriles, owner of the yacht; and Torres-Bocanegra itself.
PRC Cloud Nine did not respond to the Miami Herald’s request for comment.
Balloon explosion video goes viral
The investigation into the incident began after footage was shared on social media, authorities said.
Esteban Bruna, a yacht broker, said he was moving a client’s vessel around 4.15pm on Tuesday when he saw several people popping dozens of decorative balloons at the bow of another yacht, allowing parts to fall into Biscayne Bay.
As the pieces continued to fall, Bruna shouted to get the attention of the balloon poppers.
“My first reaction was to yell at them to try and end it, but that didn’t work,” he said Wednesday before the arrest. “I was ignored.”
It was then that Bruna began to record the problem with a cell phone.
In the video, at least two people can be seen quickly burst dozens of decorative balloons at the bow of the ship. As they burst, pieces fell into the water. In a second video, even more coins can be seen floating near the boat as most of the balloons had already burst.
A few hours later, he uploaded the images to Instagram.
Bruna said he posted the video to raise awareness and that balloon poppers should be held accountable.
“I just want people to be responsible boaters,” he said. “There is only one ocean, we must preserve it as best we can.”
Miami Herald editor Carli Teproff contributed to this report.
This story was originally published May 11, 2022 4:49 p.m.