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Mega Million lottery winners still stunned

SCHENECTADY -- An early morning phone call on a Saturday usually means one thing for the IT workers at the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal.

"I said, 'Great, the server's down,' " recalled John Kutey, 54, of Green Island.

Nope. Instead, he and six colleagues had hit the jackpot: $319 million in the multistate Mega Millions game's fifth-largest prize in its history.

"It still seems unreal to us," Kutey said yesterday at a news conference at state lottery headquarters in Schenectady. "We're pretty average folks. This really hasn't sunk in for anybody."

Each will get $19.1 million, after taxes.

Some of their colleagues have to be kicking themselves. Co-winner John Hilton, 57, of North Greenbush, said there was a pool of about a dozen workers in the information technology department who start playing the lottery at $2 per person when the jackpot hits $100 million.

"We keep a checklist of who's in and who's out for any particular drawing," he said. This time, five people declined to play.

A hankering for a Snickers bar and an impatient patron may have provided just the extra bit of luck needed by those who opted in.

Mike Barth, 63, of Bethlehem, was designated to go to the newsstand next door and buy the tickets. Another lottery customer cut in front of him in line when he reached for his favorite candy bar.

The Snickers bar became a payday instead.

"I'm thinking later on, when we found out we won, that this guy who jumped in front of me could have been the one with the winning ticket," Barth said. "It just goes to show -- you never know."

The other co-winners are Gabrielle Mahar, 29, Tracy Sussman, 41, Kristin Baldwin, 42, and Leon Peck, 62.

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