Money — a lot of it — fell from an armored truck and littered the freeway in Carlsbad on Friday morning, and several drivers pulled over and started scooping it up.
Cash covered the northbound lanes of Interstate 5 near Cannon Road starting just before 9:15 a.m., California Highway Patrol Officer Jim Bettencourt said.
“For whatever reason, money was falling out of an armored car,” Bettencourt said. “It was free-floating bills all over the freeway.”
The bills fluttering across the lanes were primarily $1s and $20s, authorities said.
CHP Sgt. Curtis Martin told reporters that the truck had been headed from San Diego to an office of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., commonly known as the FDIC. It’s not clear which office the truck was headed to; the FDIC has offices in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
“One of the doors popped open and bags of cash fell out,” he said. “One of the bags broke apart, and there was cash all over the lanes.”
Bystander video shows bills scattered across the lanes, and several people grabbing cash as fast as they could.
Instagram user @demibagly posted footage of people playing with wads of cash, one man laughing as he tossed it up like confetti.
“This is the most insane thing I have ever seen,” she says in the video. She later adds — as she pans across the scene of people grabbing money — “Literally everybody stopped on the freeway to get money off the freeway. This is insane.”
As she leaves the scene, her video shows an armored truck stopped on the shoulder and empty freeway lanes.
Bettencourt said the lanes “were pretty much shut down after it happened.”
For those who grabbed cash, a warning from the CHP: “If you stop to pick up money, as many people as videoed the scene, you can possibly be facing charges,” Bettencourt said.
“If a bunch of TVs fell from a truck across the freeway, you can’t just take the TVs,” he said.
Two people believed to have stopped to collect cash were arrested at the scene. Martin, the CHP sergeant, said they’d locked themselves out of their car, which they’d left in the traffic lanes. The car was towed.
Martin said the CHP is working with the FBI to investigate and recover as much cash as possible.
“I highly suggest to anybody that picked up cash out here — it’s not your cash, so turn it in immediately to the CHP office in Vista.”
Some did just that, he said. By mid-afternoon, roughly a dozen people stopped by to hand over collected cash.
“People are bringing in a lot,” Martin said. “People got a lot of money.”
Just how much was returned, he wouldn’t say. Nor did he know how much money flew off the truck. That count will be done by the armored car company.
The armored-car company involved in the incident declined comment.
It’s been more than a decade, but San Diego’s freeways have been awash with flying cash before — but that time, the money was dumped by fleeing suspects.
In 2009, with police and DEA agents trailing them on I-5 in National City, the passenger in a Ford F-150 pickup started flinging bills — mostly $20s and $100s — out of a window of the truck, and into afternoon rush hour traffic. The passenger did the same thing again along Interstate 805 up to Miramar Road.
Back then, just like Friday, drivers stopped and collected cash. Authorities asked for the money to be returned.
Staff researcher Merrie Monteagudo contributed to this report.