Shawn Altebaumer thought a wreck Monday had people slamming on brakes, getting out of cars and scattering across an interstate highway in Oklahoma City.
But the Emergency Medical Services Authority paramedic quickly realized what was causing the commotion — an open bank bag spewing money. People were ditching their vehicles and scampering to collect the spilled bundles and loose bills, some of which had gone airborne.
“Somebody just lost a lot of money in the road. There were just bundles of money that people were grabbing,” Altebaumer said.
About 2:45 p.m., vehicles were stopped in both directions of Interstate 40 at Meridian Avenue, and people were running up the embankment trying to grab the bills, Altebaumer said.
“Man, it was nuts. It was a free for all,” he said. “There was literally money flying. People would pick it up, tuck it and just run.”
Altebaumer said that's when they turned on the ambulance lights, parked next to the barrier and called the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.
He saw the bank bag a little farther along the barrier, grabbed it and was waiting for troopers to arrive when the ambulance was dispatched to an emergency call.
“I guess the bag hit the road and it just exploded,” Altebaumer said. “We were so scared people were about to get hit or of a car pileup or something,” he said.
Altebaumer said a single $20 bill and four $2,000 bundle wrappers were all they were able to recover.
He guessed more than $30,000 dollars was in the bag, and that 20 to 30 people were making grabs at the free-flowing cash.
No claims made
After making the medical run, Oklahoma City police officers met the paramedics at Deaconess Hospital and took the report.
As of 8:30 p.m., nobody had claimed the money, Oklahoma City police Sgt. Gregory Driskill said.
“It just kills me to think that somebody lost this thing. What if somebody was taking this to a hospital to pay for their surgery?” Altebaumer said.
“Eventually, someone will call and report this money missing and, hopefully, it will get back to the rightful owner,” he said.