Never in all my years have I heard of a bag of money bouncing out of the back of an armored truck. That’s something that happens in the spy movies. —Trooper Brady Zaugg

SALT LAKE CITY — Dan Kennedy was driving to work Tuesday morning when he saw a large orange bag spill onto the roadway from a truck in front of him.

Not wanting the bag to become a traffic hazard, Kennedy pulled over on the westbound I-80 off-ramp leading to Wright Brothers Drive, near Salt Lake City International Airport, and ran to retrieve the bag.

"I thought it was going to be light. I reached down to grab it, and I couldn’t move it,” Kennedy said.

He quickly discovered that what almost literally fell into his lap was an enormous bag of cash belonging to Brink's, a company that specializes in armored cash transportation.

Kennedy was praised by the Utah Highway Patrol on Wednesday for thinking only of returning the money after making what a trooper describes as an exceptionally rare find.

"It was clear for everyone to see that it was just wads and wads of very cleanly stacked ... $50s, $100s and so on,” said trooper Brady Zaugg, who was one of the officers on scene after Kennedy called them from his workplace. "It was not a bag of nickels, that’s for sure."

It’s unclear exactly how much money was in the bag, which was about 4 feet tall, 2 feet wide and weighed 75 pounds. The bag was full to the brim with smaller, roughly “steak-size” plastic bags, and one of the individual bags looked like it had about $22,000 inside, according to Kennedy.

He tried and failed to chase down the armored Brink's truck after discovering the bag’s contents, and then pulled into his parking lot at work, where he called police.

Three UHP troopers came to the scene and examined the cash, which Kennedy had thrown into the back of his car.

"That sack of money was sitting there, and they all just kind of just looked at it stunned for a minute,” Kennedy said. "They all stepped back and watched."

"Never in all my years have I heard of a bag of money bouncing out of the back of an armored truck,” Zaugg said with a wry smile. “That’s something that happens in the spy movies.”

Zaugg said he was grateful Kennedy’s first instinct was to promptly return the cash.

“Seals (of the individual bags) were still intact. He hadn’t disturbed it at all, so he obviously did the right thing for the right reason. … It’s not like he had to sit and have that moral dilemma. … He didn’t sit and dither on it. He immediately did the right thing,” Zaugg said.

The Brink's workers in the truck consisted of a driver and a second person whose responsibility was to guard the cash. They told police they went over a bad bump on the I-80 off-ramp, but didn’t notice the back latch opening or a bag falling out.

“(Brink's employees) were quick to respond. They had several individuals come out to resolve the issue (and) make sure everything was accounted for,” Zaugg said.

Kennedy said he noticed the bag had fallen from the Brink’s truck, but never imagined the bag would be filled with money.

"They asked me a couple times if there was another bag, and I didn’t think there was. I didn’t see one,” Kennedy said. “They’re probably trying to figure out what’s going on and make sure they get the count right. … A big bag of money like that probably takes a long time to count.”

The legal ramifications would have been very complex if the bag had been hit and the money spilled all over the road, Zaugg said. The cash would have been considered discarded material, and difficult to trace to its owners depending on the condition of the bag, he said.

"It would have been difficult to prove that guilty mindset,” he said. “That’s something we would have really had to explore very carefully.”

Kennedy said it never occurred to him to make away with the money, adding he believes most people would have done the same thing.

"I didn’t really think about anything else” besides returning it, he said.

Kennedy hasn’t been approached about any sort of reward for saving the day, but that hasn’t slowed down his excitement over a bizarre discovery.

"I really couldn’t get off that yesterday. I was just jazzed all day long."

Contributing: Nicole Vowell

Email: blockhart@deseretnews.com, Twitter: benlockhartnews