COCONUT GROVE, FLA. (WSVN) - - A man accused of popping dozens of party balloons that were decorating a yacht and dumping them into Biscayne Bay has bonded out of jail, a day after the man who chartered the boat took to social media to say he never told workers to dispose of the balloons that way.
Late Thursday afternoon, 7News cameras captured David Torres-Bocanegra shortly after he bonded out of the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center in West Miami-Dade.
When asked to explain what happened, the 29-year-old declined to comment.
Investigators said Torres-Bocanegra confessed to popping or deflating nearly 50 party balloons that landed in the water near Bayshore Landing Marina in Coconut Grove, Tuesday afternoon. He faces charges of reckless disregard for the environment.
Wednesday evening, a popular fitness instructor posted a series of videos to the Instagram account @tomrivas where he claimed to have chartered the vessel and said the crew’s careless actions were not his fault.
“We did not even see this happening in the time that this was going on. We were inside,” he said.
The man said he had chartered the boat to celebrate his engagement, and this was supposed to be a happy and exciting occasion.
“If you’ve ever had your engagement time ever, you’re just so like – you don’t even know what’s going on around you,” he said.
Hours after he posted the videos to Instagram, police took Torres-Bocanegra into custody, but he’s not the one they are holding accountable. Officers issued a total of 10 citations, including to the owner of the boat, the charter company and its employees. The fines total more than $25,000 combined.
Cellphone video recorded by a witness captured crew members popping balloons and letting them fall into the water.
Comments from Miami Maritime Group’s Esteban Bruna, the witness who recorded the video, could be heard in the footage.
“Gotta love Miami charter boats. Let’s throw a party,” he said.
The video sparked outrage and went viral shortly after Bruna posted it on social media.
In his Instagram videos, the man said he never told crew members to dump the balloons into Biscayne Bay.
“We went inside, and that was the end of it. We didn’t see the balloons anymore,” he said. “They said, ‘We need to remove the balloons ’cause the balloons can’t go out to sea,’ and I said, ‘OK, cool, not a problem. Take them off, whatever.'”
But it’s the way the crew removed them that has fellow boaters seeing red.
“People were mad. I was mad. I was glad I was able to post [the video],” said Bruna.
Bruna said he tried to talk to the crew, to no avail.
“They basically ignored me and blew me off, so I went ahead and posted it and let the people do what the people do,” he said.
“‘Pop,’ every single balloon on the bow of the boat right into the water,” Bruna is heard saying in the video.
The clip also captured the attention of Miami-Dade Police’s Illegal Dumping Unit, who came out to the marina on Wednesday to investigate.
J.P. Ortega, who charters an eco tour of the marina, recorded video of the balloons on the yacht before they were popped.
“It was really frustrating to see somebody with that kind of ignorance,” he said. “We thought they were going to end up in the bay unintentionally. We never thought that two hours later they were going to be popping the balloons on the water.”
Other boaters sprang into action and tried to salvage some of the balloons and clean up what they could in an effort to prevent them from going into the mouths of animals they could hurt or kill.
“We pull trash from the bay all the time, and here we have people deliberately popping balloons and throwing them into the water, so it made us angry,” said David Furer with Salty Miami Eco Tours.
“It’s just not right. There’s a lot of wildlife, a lot of people depend on this for their living,” said Bruna, “whether they’re charter captains, fishing captains, yacht brokers such as myself. This is what we do.”
As anger grows, local boaters hope people learn from this incident.
“Clean up after yourself. We’ve got one ocean,” said Bruna.
When asked whether he cares about marine life, Torres-Bocanegra said, “Of course.” When asked again to explain what happened on Tuesday, he remained silent.
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