US lottery winner dies three weeks after scooping $1m jackpot

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A 51-year-old carpenter from New York has died less than three weeks after scooping a million dollar jackpot (€835,200) from a scratch card.

The American “passed away suddenly” from stage 4 cancer last weekend, an obituary confirmed.

Donald Savastano picked up the lucky ticket at a gas station in December after stopping for fuel on his way home from work.

“I buy scratch-off tickets pretty regularly but I don’t normally play the holiday tickets,” Savastano told New York Lottery officials. “I saw the Merry Millionaire ticket and figured, ‘Why not?’”

Savastano scratched the card as he walked back to his car, only to find he’d matched the winning numbers and was in the running for a large sum of money.

“I couldn’t believe it!” he said. “I brought it back in and scanned it under the ticket checker and knew it was a winner.”

The self-employed carpenter received a $661,800 cheque (€552,700) after taxes on January 8. He told lottery officials he was looking forward to putting some of it aside for his retirement.

“The money will help with that . . . I’ll buy a new truck, pay off some debt and invest for the future,” he said.

He could also afford a visit to the doctor, which was when his fortunes took a turn for the worse.

“He didn’t have insurance, he hadn’t been feeling good for a while, I guess, and when he got the money he went into the doctor,” said Danielle Scott, who worked at the store where Savastano bought his lottery ticket.

She told ABC7: “He had a friend come and talk to me, and they told me that he was very sick and that he had brain and lung cancer and that he was in the hospital and they didn’t think he was gonna make it.”

Donald Louis Savastano died at home with family by his side on Friday (January 26), an obituary read.

Don was born in Queens, New York and grew up on Long Island. He became a carpenter after working with and learning from his father as a young boy.

“He was known for his high-quality work and perfectionism,” the obituary noted. “He always tried to reach out and help those he could by teaching them ‘the right way to do things.’”

Savastano is survived by his long-term girlfriend, his mother, four brothers and two sisters.

His family have declined requests for comment.

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