“I have to love charter boats in Miami,” Bruna said in one of the videos. “Let’s throw a party, pop every single balloon on the bow of the boat and straight into the water.”
Later that day, Bruna uploaded the videos to Instagram, which was not ignored. Miami Dade Police have charged 29-year-old David Torres-Bocanegra with reckless disregard for the environment and fines totaling more than $25,000 to 10 individuals and companies in connection with what happened at an engagement party on the yacht late Tuesday afternoon imposed.
“As a community, we share a responsibility to protect our environment,” Miami-Dade Police Department interim director George Perez said Thursday in a statement. “Our coastal waters are our county’s natural beauty, and our marine life depends on us to protect it.”
According to the Ocean Conservation Society, sea creatures can starve to death if they mistake balloons for food and the plastic blocks their digestive tract. Sea turtles and seabirds are particularly at risk.
Torres-Bocanegra, who was released from prison Thursday, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post early Friday. During his interview with police, he confessed to popping about 50 balloons, an officer said in an affidavit obtained by the Miami Herald.
A representative from Cloud Nine, an event planning company based in South Florida, said in an Instagram post Wednesday that it decorated the engagement party and brought in a vendor to hang balloons. Although no one from Cloud Nine popped the balloons, the company still apologized, according to the rep.
“We regret the situation we were involved in and we are now aware of the damage it has done to our environment,” the representative said in the post.
As Bruna’s video went viral and outrage mounted, Miami fitness instructor Tom Rivas also took to Instagram and told people he chartered the yacht to propose to his girlfriend. After his fiancee accepted his proposal, the newly engaged couple joined the other revelers in the yacht’s cabin while crew members began removing decorations. Rivas said he didn’t know how they were going to get rid of the balloons and couldn’t see the yacht’s bow while he and his guests partied inside.
“If I had known they were going to remove it that way I certainly would have objected, but honestly we had no idea until we saw the viral videos,” he said in a statement posted to Instagram.
Still, Rivas added, that didn’t stop people from directing their anger at him and his fiancé. “A very special day for us has turned into tons of hate mail from people assuming we committed this horrific act.”
Bruna posted the videos on the Instagram of his employer, yacht management firm Miami Maritime Group, along with a written post saying the yacht was adorned with more than 200 balloons and that “the damage these balloons are causing to our Inflicting damage on marine life is catastrophic.”
“I was pretty upset about it, this is our bay, this is our livelihood,” Bruna told WTVJ.
He told the Miami Herald he posted the video because he wanted to hold balloon poppers accountable, raise awareness of what balloons and other plastic can do to marine life, and keep that plastic out of the water.
“I just want people to be responsible boaters,” he told the Herald. “There is only one ocean, we must preserve it as best we can.”