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Eight meatpackers win mega lottery

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New York, Feb 23 (UNI) Eight workers, including a woman, at a meatpacking plant in Nebraska have claimed a record jackpot worth 365 million dollars, news reports quoting lottery officials said.

All of them appeared at a news conference yesterday in Lincoln, Nebraska, to describe their story. The news conference was carried live by several TV news channels across the nation.

Chasity Rutjens, 29, said, ''We're still thinking we're going to wake up from a dream or something. We're trying to grasp the fact that we're millionaires. I want to make sure it last me the rest of my life.'' Each of the eight will get 22.1 million dollars after having decided to take it as lump sum and divide the entire money equally, the officials said.

After taxes each will receive 15.5 million dollars.

Vietnamese refugee Dung Tran, 34, was among the eight winners and he was the one who purchased the winning Powerball ticket for the group on Friday afternoon at a convenience store in Lincoln. The store is located near the ConAgra ham processing plant where they worked.

Tran fought back tears when he said he would stop working immediately and spend more time with his wife and son.

The winners said they had not made any specific plans, though it would be highly unlikely that they would return to their meatpacking work.

They often pooled their money with other workers when Powerball jackpots exceeded 40 million dollars. Alain Maboussou, 26, said he would think that employees who did not contribute for the tickets would harbour any ill-will toward the winners.

''I say, good luck to them,'' Mohamed Gibriel, one such employee, told the local Journal Star newspaper.

The other five winners are - Quang Dao, 56; Eric Zornes , 40; David Gehle, 53; Michael Terpstra, 47; and Robert Stewart, 30.

The group first learned that they had the winning numbers - 15, 17, 43, 44 and 48 with a Powerball number 29 - early on Sunday morning. They contacted a lawyer that day to help them reach an understanding and claim the jackpot.

Powerball tickets are sold in 28 states, Washington, D C, and the U S Virgin Islands.

The previous U S jackpot record was 363 million dollars, won by two ticket holders in Illinois and Michigan in 2000, according to the Multi-State Lottery Association, which conducts the game.

UNI XC-YA DS1312

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