HELENA, Mt. — Six lucky numbers turned into a life-changing, eight-figure payout for a pair of Helenans who Thursday discovered their share of a Powerball lotto jackpot will be some $48.5 million.
Kim Claassen, 55, and 23-year-old Joe Lamport Jr. have worked together at North West Home Health Care for several years, and over that time have intermittently purchased lottery tickets together with the understanding that they would split any winnings. Wednesday night, Claassen stopped at the Town Pump on North Montana Avenue, just up the street from the Montana Lottery headquarters, and bought $10 worth of tickets, including what turned out to be the winning combination, for that night's $96.9 million Powerball drawing.
The two are splitting the jackpot with the holder of another winning ticket sold in Ohio. It's the biggest single lotto payout in Montana history, eclipsing a $47 million Lotto America winner sold in Havre in 1991.
Claassen, who also works part time in distribution services for the Independent Record, said she slept just and hour-and-a-half between jobs Thursday morning, and was still in a state of shock Thursday afternoon.
"Mostly I've just got to let it sink in and let it feel real," she said. "It's going to have a huge impact on a lot of people's lives."
At a news event at the convenience store where the winning ticket was sold, Lamport said he wasn't sure what he'd do with his share of the winnings.
"I just want to go fishing," he laughed. "I'm not going to Disney World!"
Claassen very nearly let the winning ticket get away. She said she checked the lottery website Wednesday night, and believing her numbers were not winners, tore the ticket into four pieces and threw it away, and sent Lamport a text message saying, "We're not millionaires yet."
But Claassen had checked the site before Wednesday's winning numbers were updated. When a colleague told her Thursday that a winning ticket was sold at the Town Pump where she bought her chances, Claassen fished her ticket out of the trash, pieced it back together and discovered she had the winning numbers.
She brought the ticket to the Montana Lottery office, where its authenticity was confirmed.
"Once a winning ticket comes in, there's a validation process that our security team does," said Montana Lottery spokeswoman Jo Berg. "Then we sit down with the winners and talk to them about their names being public, and some of the steps they need to take as far as finding a lawyer and a financial adviser."
Claassen and Lamport have 60 days to decide whether they want to collect the $48.5 million as an annuity over 30 years, or if they'd prefer a single lump sum cash payment of around $25 million.
Both winners said they would help family members with their winnings. Claassen said she is recently divorced, "but we're still really good friends, so this will help him, too."
The odds of winning a Powerball drawing are astronomical. To win the jackpot, a ticket must match five numbers from a pool of 59, and an additional single number from a pool of 39 (the "powerball"). The odds of winning the jackpot are 195 million to 1.
Powerball tickets are sold in 42 states as well as the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Montana's last Powerball jackpot ticket was sold in March 1999 to an East Glacier couple.