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Eight co-workers share US$365m jackpot
Updated: 2006-02-23 07:37

Eight workers at a Nebraska meatpacking plant are really bringing home the bacon now: They stepped forward Wednesday to claim the biggest lottery jackpot in U.S. history — US$365 million.

The seven men and one woman bought the winning Powerball ticket at a convenience store near the ConAgra ham processing plant where they worked. At least three of the winners are immigrants — two from Vietnam and one from the Congo.

Eight co-workers share US$365m jackpot
Powerball Lottery winners, from left to right, Chasity Rutjens, Alain Maboussou, and Dung Tran, celebrate after each was awarded a check for their share of the record $365 million jackpot in Lincoln, Nebraska February 22, 2006. The group of eight winners selected the cash option, awarding each person US$22,162,500 before tax withholdings. [Reuters]

"This is great country!" said Quang Dao, 56, who came to the United States in 1988. He still has family in Vietnam and said he plans to help them financially with his winnings.

The previous U.S. jackpot record was $363 million, won by two ticketholders in Illinois and Michigan in 2000.

The Nebraska workers had the option of taking the money in one lump sum or 30 annual installments. They chose the lump sum and will get $15.5 million each after taxes.

Three of the group quit their jobs when they hit the jackpot.

"I've been retired for about four days now," said Eric Zornes, 40.

Eight co-workers share US$365m jackpot
Powerball Lottery co-winner Alain Maboussou (R) hugs U-Stop gas station employee Penny Fisher after Maboussou was awarded his share of the US$365 million jackpot in Lincoln, Nebraska, February 22, 2006. [Reuters]

Alain Maboussou, 26, fled from the Congo in 1999 to escape the civil war there. He said he plans to quit work and return to school for a degree in business administration. He said the money will provide for his wife and baby daughter.

"She's going to be happy for the rest of her life," he said of the 3-month-old girl.

Mike Terpstra, a 47-year-old plant supervisor who is single and has no children, was unsure what to do with the money. "Everybody has dreams," he said. "Buy an island. Buy an airplane. In reality, I'm not a fan of flying and don't really like water."

The winners said they often pooled their money with other workers when Powerball jackpots exceeded $40 million. Maboussou said he did not think employees who did not chip in for the tickets would harbor any ill will toward the winners.

Eight co-workers share US$365m jackpot
Wendi Mandl (C) wipes a tear from her eye while one of the eight Powerball Lottery winners, Dung Tran (not in photo), speaks to reporters in Lincoln, Nebraska February 22, 2006. Wendi and her husband Nick own the U-Stop gas station where the winning ticket, worth $365 million dollars, was purchased. [Reuters]

"I don't think they have a reason to be jealous because when it's a pool day, we ask people to put like in five bucks, so if you wasn't there or you didn't put five bucks in, sorry," he said.

The other winners were: David Gehle, 53; Chasity Rutjens, 29; Dung Tran, 34; and Robert Stewart, 30.

The winning numbers were 15, 17, 43, 44 and 48, with a Powerball number of 29. The odds of picking the winning combination of numbers were 1 in 146 million.

Powerball tickets are sold in 28 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Eight co-workers share US$365m jackpot
The eight winners of the Powerball Lottery pose with their individual checks in Lincoln, Neb., Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2006. [AP]

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