Oct 28, 2005, 5:45 pm
Ryan Paterson was at a safety meeting yesterday around 9 a.m. when his boss joked at the end: "Well, I guess unless someone has won that $54 million, I will see you all later."
"That's when Perry came in and piped up about our ticket," the 23-year-old control room operator at Viking Energy Royalty Trust recalled with a grin. "Everything after that is still a blur."
Mr. Paterson and 16 of his co-workers at a small oil and gas company east of Camrose are the winners of the largest lottery jackpot in Canadian history — $54,294,712.
Hours after Perry Mayne announced the workers' windfall in the meeting, the group and their families crammed into the small beige bungalow owned by Darrell Thompson to celebrate and plot their next move.
Mr. Thompson, who goes by the nickname Tomcat, bought the winning Lotto 6/49 ticket for the group at a Camrose Mac's convenience store.
Camrose is a town of about 15,000, an hour southeast of Edmonton.
"How do you react to something like this?" Mr. Thompson, a plant operator, asked a gaggle of reporters gathered in his tiny backyard. "You kind of go, holy ."
Each of the 17 winners — 15 men and two women, most in jeans, baseball caps and T-shirts yesterday — threw in $20 to play the lottery. The numbers were chosen using a shaker filled with numbered cubes. Each will receive $3,193,806.
"We are normal, hard-working people," one of the new millionaires, Calvin Lewis, 43, said as he calmly sipped a Coke and vodka. "We are just the regular Joes out there. There were no superintendents, no big bosses in on it."
Wednesday night's Lotto 6/49 draw surpasses the largest payout on a single lottery ticket in this country. Twice $30-million has been won by single ticket holders — in 2004 by a New Brunswick man and the year before by an Ontario man.
All of the winners yesterday were eagerly discussing how they were planning to use their share. Most talked about quitting their jobs.
"I just turned 55 on Monday. Talk about Freedom 55," Kirk Maetche said.
The married father of two later teared up when talking about nine co-workers who usually purchase tickets but didn't this time. About 30 people work at the plant.
"It's a real shame that some of the boys didn't come in," he said. "We are hoping to do something for them."
The group has already discussed giving some of their winnings those co-workers.
"We have to do something for those guys. It wouldn't be right to leave them out. We've all been working together for 15, 20 years," said Mr. Thompson, who is planning to use his share to buy "the wife a house, the daughter a car and then go from there."
Judy Larson, who is married to one of the winners, Daryl, said she expects that the rest of the country is wondering, "It's Alberta, don't they all already have enough money?
"In all honesty, this couldn't have happened to a more hard-working group of people," she said. "It's great that it just wasn't one person who won it — that would have been terrible."
The group decided to put the ticket in a safety deposit box yesterday and party the night away. Today, they are expected to drive to St. Albert, a city close to Edmonton, to turn in the ticket. The chances of holding the winning combination of six numbers are estimated at one in 14 million.