TOMS RIVER, New Jersey (Reuters) - The 16 New Jersey workers who won a third of last week’s $448 million Powerball jackpot said on Tuesday that many of them suffered losses during Superstorm Sandy and planned to use their winnings to rebuild their lives.
The co-workers, nicknamed “Ocean’s 16,” were introduced to the public at a news conference in Toms River, New Jersey. They got a check for $86,054,355, their share of the jackpot after taxes, lottery officials said.
They produced the second of three winning tickets to the jackpot. The first winner, who came forward last week, was Minnesota engineer Paul White and the final holder has not yet stepped forward publicly.
Six members of the group said their homes had been directly damaged by Sandy last year, and most said they planned to keep working at the Ocean County Vehicles Services Department.
“Ocean’s 16” winner Darlene Riccio said she lost the home she had rented with her daughter for five years during the October 2012 superstorm. They have been staying with family since, she said.
“It has been an extremely rough year,” she said at an emotional and often humorous news conference. “The first thing I‘m going to do is buy me and my daughter a home and bring my dog back home.”
When her co-workers informed her they had won, “I thought they were joking with me and that it was the worst joke ever. I‘m still in shock,” she added.
She said on her Facebook page that she has quit her second part-time job at a retail store.
The nine women and seven men, who described themselves as good friends, bought 48 Quick Pick tickets, each putting in $6. Their winning ticket was purchased at an Acme Markets store in the New Jersey shore town of Little Egg Harbor.
The woman who bought the tickets, Lisa Presutto, said she had stopped at the Acme on her way home for groceries and was one of the first to realize they won last Wednesday’s drawing.
“I immediately started shaking,” she said.
One winner, Barbara Jo Riivald, said her late father, former State Sen. John Brown, had been instrumental in creating the New Jersey Lottery and sponsored the legislation that created it.
“I wish he was here to share in the moment. The only thing I wanted to do that next morning was pick up the phone and call him,” she said.
William Seeley of Manahawkin said he planned to build a log cabin on “multiple acres of land,” watch NASCAR races on television and throw a big party.
“I lost my mom to cancer, and my dad’s going through it right now,” he said. “That’s the first place I stopped was Pop’s house. Started crying in front of him and told him I loved him.”
He quickly added: “We’re a happy bunch ... We’re very happy, happy, happy.”
The third as-yet unclaimed winning ticket was sold at a Super Stop & Shop supermarket in South Brunswick, New Jersey, officials said.
The odds of winning the jackpot were about one in 175 million.
Powerball tickets are sold in 43 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Five states - Kansas, Maryland, Delaware, North Dakota and Ohio - allow the winners to remain anonymous, according to the Multi-State Lottery Association.
Writing by Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing by Richard Chang and Andre Grenon