Suspense in Northwest towns where winning lottery tickets sold

Two unknown winners to share $380 million Mega Millions jackpot. Similarity to "Lost" numbers prompts curse talk

By Jessie L. Bonner - Nicholas K. Geranios
Published January 6, 2011 4:45AM (UTC)
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The suspense over who bought the two winning tickets in the $380 million Mega Millions lottery focused Wednesday on two small towns nestled just 125 miles apart in the snow-covered Pacific Northwest.

One was sold at a Safeway supermarket here in eastern Washington, and the other in Post Falls, Idaho. No one has come forward yet to claim the prize, with each ticket worth $190 million.


"We don't know if it's a working stiff or a retired person," resident Richard Hart said at the Safeway.

The prospect of winning the second biggest jackpot in history drew huge interest across the country as thousands of people lined up to buy tickets in the 41 states and Washington, D.C., where the lottery is held.

A day after the drawing, all eyes were on a region where most of the nation's frozen french fries are produced, and on the similarity between the winning digits and the ones used by a character on the television show "Lost."


The winners had to match five regular numbers plus the "Mega ball."

The winning numbers were 4, 8, 15, 25 and 47, with the Mega ball number of 42. Four of the six winning numbers matched numbers that were prominently featured throughout the popular series -- 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42.

Video producer Ryan Jones of New York said he and a co-worker pooled their money to buy 10 tickets together, but he returned to the grocery store to buy an 11th entry just to play the "Lost" numbers.


Mega Millions said 25,587 tickets matched three of the winning numbers, plus the bonus number -- so anyone who played the "Lost" numbers won $150 per ticket.

"When the numbers popped up, I did have a moment where I thought: 'You know, I could take this money and run, just get far away from Sarah and not share it with her,'" he said.


Jones added he decided to share the prize.

Character Hugo "Hurley" Reyes became a multimillionaire on "Lost" when he won using numbers repeated by a former Navy seaman who became a patient in a mental institution. Hurley was also a patient.

But his win came with a series of spectacular misfortunes -- his grandfather died after a heart attack at Hurley's press conference and the house he bought for his mom caught fire.


Hurley even believed he caused a plane crash that left him and fellow passengers stranded on an island as the saga began. He blamed it on the numbers.

Jones said he's been ribbed many times since Tuesday's drawing that he may now be cursed.

"You know what, I think that I'm willing to take the curse in exchange for the $150," he said. "Let it come, I say."


At the Safeway in Ephrata, there were no curses. Only customers, coming in one by one, and placing their tickets into a machine to see if they had won something, even a few dollars. More than 5.5 million people won prizes, ranging from $10,000 to $2.

Most at the supermarket, however, turned away disappointed, tossing their tickets into a nearby trash can.

"We know as much as anyone else does," said Nathan Arlantico, 21, the video department manager. He said the store was busy with lines of potential millionaires all day Tuesday.

Because of feverish sales right up to the evening drawing, the winners will share a $380 million jackpot, an increase over the previous $355 million estimate, said Scott Kinney, Washington's Lottery spokesman.


In March 2007, two winners, in Georgia and New Jersey, shared the richest prize -- a $390 million Mega Millions jackpot.

Tuesday's winning tickets are each worth $190 million, paid in 26 annual installments.

In Idaho, the lucky winner also has the option of taking a nearly $81 million lump sum payment after state and federal taxes are withheld, said Jeff Anderson, executive director of the Idaho Lottery.

Idaho officials identified Post Falls -- a suburb of Spokane, Wash., -- as the town where the ticket was bought, but did not release the name of the place where it was sold, citing the state's security procedures.


The lives of the big winners will most certainly change, but for others, the lottery will be a fun memory.

"Lost" fan Hunter Hart of Los Angeles said he bought a ticket worth $150 because he found an extra $3 in his pocket while at a gas station. At first, he said, he wanted to keep it as a souvenir to say he played Hurley's numbers.

When asked what he planned to do with his winnings, the 26-year-old Internet entrepreneur said: "Well, I'm actually at the bar right now spending it.

"It's been a rough month, dude," he said.



Bonner reported from Boise, Idaho. Associated Press writers Phuong Le in Seattle and Oskar Garcia in Las Vegas contributed to this report.



Jessie L. Bonner

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Nicholas K. Geranios

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