A Kansas man has revealed that hours after buying three tickets in last week's Mega Millions lottery frenzy that swept America, he was hit by lightning, proving the adage about how hopelessly small the chances are of winning.
He was, of course, among the legions of the disappointed when the lucky numbers were finally picked on Friday night, giving up a jackpot of $656m (£409m), allegedly the biggest in US history. Officials said tickets with the correct combination had been sold in three states: Maryland, Illinois and, as it happens, Kansas.
Who the lucky so-and-so's were remained a mystery last night, although we did know more precisely where each of the tickets was sold. In the case of Maryland it was a 7-Eleven shop north of Baltimore which was instantly swamped by reporters. Only in Illinois are the rules clear that the winner must identify themselves when they claim their prize. In the other two states anonymity is allowed, and it is possible the winners will never come forward.
At the MotoMart in the tiny town of Red Bud, where Illinois' winning ticket was sold, the manager, Denise Metzger, said: "It's just unbelievable. Everyone is wanting to know who it is. I was hoping someone from Red Bud would win. Never in my wildest dreams did I think this. I'm just tickled pink."
Stephen Martino, the director of the Maryland Lottery, said: "We obviously don't have any idea right now who the player is. When they will come forward our advice to the player is to safeguard the ticket. Sign the back of it."
Each winning ticket is worth $213m before taxes, if paid in instalments. However, the sum gets cut significantly if each of the winners decides to take their prize as a lump sum.
No one, perhaps, felt more foolish yesterday than the lightning victim, Bill Isles, who was hospitalised with an out-of-sync heart but who is otherwise fairly unscathed after being struck late on Thursday outside his home in Wichita.
"It threw me to the ground quivering," he said. "It kind of scrambled my brain and gave me an irregular heartbeat." But recovering in hospital on Friday evening, just before the lottery draw, he sent a friend out to buy him ten more tickets.Reuse content