Man Accused of Balloon Pollution After Yacht Proposal Party Arrested

A Florida man has been arrested after a viral video captured him dumping 50 balloons from a boat into the ocean after a proposal had been made on board, police said. According to reports, the man admitted the environmentally dangerous act to officers.

David Torres-Bocanegra, 29, was arrested by Miami-Dade Police on Wednesday after allegedly deflating and disposing of the balloons while working on a chartered yacht at the Bayshore Landing Marina in Miami. Balloon releases have been illegal in Florida since 1989.

A video of the incident went viral online after MMG Outboard Division, a boat dealership, posted it to Instagram. The footage shows two individuals on board the boat, popping the white and gold balloons before letting them drop straight into the water.

Balloons in waters pose a large threat to sea life including turtles and seabirds, who mistakenly believe them to be food and eat them.

"As we passed them and expressed our disagreement, we were ignored and they continued popping away with no care in the world," MMG Outboard Division wrote in the post.

According to NBC 6 Miami, yacht broker Esteban Bruna shot the video and similarly said that he verbally warned the individuals to stop. "I was pretty upset about it, this is our bay, this is our livelihood," he told NBC 6. "I was here when they were setting them up and then initially I didn't really think much of it but I guess as the day was done and they started popping away and letting them all go into the water, I was shocked."

"I mentioned to them,' are you guys serious, is this something you're going to do right now?' [They] kind of just blew me off, ignored me," Bruna said. "It was horrifying to see what they were doing to marine life and the waterways by just dumping all of these balloons into the water."

On Wednesday, Miami Police shared on social media that they were aware of the video and investigating the incident, warning: "We take crimes against the environment seriously and will work to bring the individuals responsible for their actions to justice."

Officers arrested Torres-Bocanegra on Wednesday evening in Homestead and as per the arrest affidavit seen by Newsweek, he told officers that he did deflate the balloons on the vessel and provided a written statement.

He is facing a charge of reckless disregard for the environment, which is classed as a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of less than $10,000 or 60 days in jail, or both.

A total of 10 civil citations with a $2,510 fine each were also issued to individuals for illegal dumping.

The groom-to-be, who chartered the boat for his proposal, said in a statement on Instagram, as seen by Local 10, that he was unaware of the disposal of the balloons and was inside the boat at the time with his party of guests.

MDPD Interim Director, George A. Perez said in a statement: "As a community, we share the responsibility to protect our environment. I am extremely proud of our Illegal Dumping Unit, for their thorough investigation and swift conclusion to this case. I would like to thank all the agencies and the State Attorney's Office for their collaboration in bringing these individuals to justice. Our coastal waterways are the natural beauty of our county, and our marine life depend on us to keep them safe."

Newsweek has contacted MMG Outboard Division for comment.