Florida man arrested, over $22K in citations issued over balloon pollution from Miami proposal party

David Sebastian Torres-Bocanegra. (Miami-Dade Corrections & Rehabilitation)

MIAMI – A man was arrested and nine citations were issued to several people after an engagement proposal party on a yacht that ended with deflated balloons polluting Biscayne Bay, News4JAX partner station WPLG in Miami reported.

David Sebastian Torres-Bocanegra, 28, was arrested in connection with the incident, and the citations issued total $22,500, Miami-Dade police said.

According to WPLG’s report, Tom Rivas, a fitness coach, said he chartered the yacht to propose to his girlfriend -- who said “Yes!”

But hours later, the event, planned and executed by Cloud Nine, which specializes in romantic proposals, became associated with pollution in Biscayne Bay after a witness recorded video showing people on the yacht popping balloons that fell into the water.

“The crew proceeded to remove balloons ... We honestly had no idea until we saw the videos,” Rivas wrote on Instagram. “A very special day for us has turned into tons of hate messages.”

WPLG reported that local environmentalists were outraged. The deflated latex, mylar, or vinyl balloons float on the surface of the water. Turtles, seabirds, and other marine animals often mistake the material for jellyfish and eat it — or feed it to their young.

In a statement on Instagram, a representative of Cloud Nine said the family-owned company had learned a lesson and is committed to no longer using balloons to decorate when events are near the water. The post said the company used a balloon vendor for the event and that it is never in charge of removing balloon decorations.

“Now we are trying to investigate the situation from our side,” the post read.

Authorities announced Wednesday that there was an ongoing investigation after WPLG News Anchor Louis Aguirre shared the witness video.


About the Authors:

Janine Stanwood joined Local 10 News in February 2004 as an assignment editor. She is now a general assignment reporter. Before moving to South Florida from her Washington home, Janine was the senior legislative correspondent for a United States senator on Capitol Hill.

Louis Aguirre is an Emmy-award winning journalist who anchors weekday newscasts and serves as WPLG Local 10’s Environmental Advocate.