$380 million jackpot winners have 23 grandkids

/ Source: msnbc.com staff and news service reports

A couple with 23 grandchildren claimed half of the $380 million Mega Millions jackpot on Thursday.

Jim and Carolyn McCullar traveled from their home in Ephrata, Wash., to the state capital Olympia for the ceremony.

Jim McCullar — who bought the ticket and said his luck includes having come back from hospital stays where he was pronounced dead three times — accepted the oversized check, and then promptly handed it over to his wife.

"We've been married 41 years," he said, as his family looked on. "I know what to do with this check."

"I've been lucky three times in my life," McCullar added at a press conference. He said the other two times were marrying his wife and winning $18,650 at keno.

McCullar said he suffered from heart issues, including three heart attacks and receiving 12 medical stents, and had been pronounced dead three times at a hospital in Wenatchee, Wash.

He said he and his wife would be helping his family and others, citing a desire to "pay it forward".

Aged 68 and most recently a real estate agent, McCullar said he retired from Boeing after 20 years in management. 

The couple have six children, 23 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren, according to a website entry for the real estate company he worked at.

"Born a christian, will die a christian," his entry stated.

McCullar said he woke up his wife after the drawing on Tuesday to tell her they had won. The winning numbers were 4, 8, 15, 25 and 47, with the Mega ball number of 42.

"I was pale, shaking. She thought I was having a heart attack," he said.

She asked him how he was.

He told her: "I'm perfect."

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire was on hand to congratulate the McCullars, and joked beforehand that she might ask if the family could help with the state's multibillion-dollar budget deficit.

"I'm going to go over at lunch and congratulate him and his wife, and ask them what they're going to do with all that money," Gregoire said with a smile. "And then, I'm going to be honest with them and ask if I can borrow it."

In Idaho, meanwhile, officials waited for the other lucky ticket-holder to come forward and claim half of the prize.

That ticket was purchased in Post Falls, just 125 miles from Ephrata.

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."

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.

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

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.

No state taxes would apply in Washington, where the lump sum payment would be $90 million after the 25 percent federal tax.

The McCullars said they had not yet decided whether to take the lump sum or 26 installments.

Idaho officials identified Post Falls 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.