Bus riders have turned a lot of stuff into Manuel Tapia throughout his career as a KCATA bus operator.
Misplaced eyeglasses. Lost umbrellas. Discarded trash.
But nothing like what was turned in on March 13.
On a southbound run from Kansas City International Airport late in the afternoon, a rider turned in a seemingly ordinary black pouch that’s worn around the waist.
It seemed a little heavy. Tapia thought there might be a billfold inside. Maybe an airline boarding pass. Or it could have just been trash. He was floored by what he found.
Two yellow envelopes. Each with $4,000 in cash.
“Wow! Look at this,” he remarked to himself. “There’s a whole lot of money here.”
Manuel immediately called dispatch. A supervisor was sent to meet Tapia’s 129 Boardwalk/KCI bus and pick up the pouch and return it to the KCATA campus.
Dispatch alerted Randy Hundley, the KCATA’s new public safety manager. The find was worrisome.
What could possibly lead to someone losing 8,000 bucks on a bus, Hundley wondered. “Who leaves $8,000 on a bus?” Hundley said. “Usually people don’t carry that amount of currency.”
KCATA Public Safety Manager Randy Hundley (right) was one of the players who helped return the lost cash.
By the time the package was returned to KCATA headquarters, two people phoned in staking claim to the pouch. “That raised some suspicion,” Hundley said.
With no idea who would show up to retrieve the pouch, Hundley immediately called the Kansas City Police Department for assistance. Hundley took care to count the cash and document the package.
On-Street Operations Manager Raed Kandah came in from home after hearing the call on the radio. He summoned the bus back to the barn and ordered the video pulled to learn what happened. Raed sorted through the video to find the sequences documenting what unfolded on the bus.
On-Street Operations Manager Raed Kandah came in from home to help return the lost cash.
Eventually, a man showed up at about 8 p.m. at the KCATA security gate at 17th and Forest. He was led up to the KCATA’s Transportation offices where Hundley asked the man to explain what happened.
“I wasn’t going to lead him,” Hundley said. “I wanted him to tell me what occurred.”
Everything the man said turned out to be accurate and verified in the video.
He described the pouch. He described how the money was packaged. The video showed him boarding the bus with a pouch and then leaving the vehicle without one.
The money was turned over to the man, who was in Kansas City from a small northwestern Pennsylvania town to buy a pickup he had seen online. He flew into Kansas City with the idea buying the truck and driving home.
When he decided against buying the truck, he returned to the airport where he left his pouch filled with cash on a seat near the driver on the 129 Boardwalk-KCI.
“When someone loses something like that, can you imagine their heart racing?” Hundley said. “For it to all end well and that man to get his money back within hours, how blessed do you have to be?”