U.S. park ranger, furloughed during government shutdown, wins $29.5M lotto jackpot

A customer purchases a lottery ticket at a store in this July 8, 2016 file photo. AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

A park ranger who was furloughed during the longest partial government shutdown in U.S. history struck it rich after claiming a $29.5 million New Jersey lottery jackpot.

National Park Service employee Judith Smith purchased the winning ticket on Dec. 17, when she, like many of her colleagues, was working without a paycheque. The ticket was purchased just days before the shutdown closed Fort Wadsworth recreation area in Staten Island, New York, where she worked.

“This dedicated worker was waiting along with her colleagues through days of being furloughed without pay and an uncertain determination about when this furlough might end,” New Jersey Lottery said in a statement.

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The Bayonne, New Jersey, resident and her two children put the ticket in a safe place while seeking legal and financial advice before claiming the jackpot.

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“After confirming they had the winning ticket for $29.5 million, this furloughed worker and her children changed their focus away from the government shutdown,” the lottery said. They became engaged in seeking sound legal and financial advice so they could go about filing a claim for the New Jersey Lottery’s Pick-6 jackpot that would make them multi-millionaires.”

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On Wednesday, Smith and her family claimed the prize, the largest Pick-6 jackpot in the state since May 2004.

The U.S. government shutdown ended last month.

–with a file from the Associated Press

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