SEPTA-CULAR! 48 workers win $172.7M in Powerball

Posted: April 27, 2012

AS JAMES THROWER leaned against a wall outside SEPTA headquarters on Market Street, the paratransit worker's smirk said it all.

"We immediately started hatin', " the 34-year-old joked with three of his co-workers. "I play the lottery every day. I'm in the casino every week. I just wish it was me."

A SEPTA co-worker breezed by the group. "Y'all winners?" she asked excitedly.

Thrower and his buddies answered in a chorus: "We wish!"

The wish, of course, was to be one of the 48 SEPTA workers who bagged the $172.7 million Powerball jackpot in Wednesday night's drawing. Maybe there's a consolation prize.

"We're hoping they all leave and we can get [their] better jobs," said Thrower, who works for SEPTA's Customized Community Transportation service for riders with disabilities.

His colleague, Carey Abney III, cracked up at that.

"You hit the Powerball, would you still be here?" he asked with a grin.

All the winning employees work - at least for now - at SEPTA headquarters on Market Street near 12th, most of them in the finance department, SEPTA said. They bought the winning $2 ticket at the Newsstand at the Gallery, a couple of blocks away.

Perhaps afraid that distant relatives would suddenly try to railroad them into coughing up a token of their newfound wealth, all 48 winners attempted to mass-transit themselves home from work anonymously on Thursday, without expressing themselves to local reporters.

The SEPTA 48, some of whom had been buying lottery tickets together for years, will now share the $172.7 million if they choose the 30-year annuity, or a mere $107.5 million if they take it in a lump sum. Either way, they're all millionaires.

As word spread through SEPTA headquarters Thursday afternoon, the excitement was contagious, said SEPTA spokesman Richard Maloney. "There were people racing down the halls giving high-fives," he said.

One winner was a longtime custodian whose co-workers were so excited for him, they formed an archway with their hands that he ran under, he said.

Maloney remains a working stiff. "Those of us who play office pools were very disappointed we weren't in this pool," he said, smiling.

He's not alone. "I hear there's one person who didn't get in it this week, didn't buy it, kind of going, 'Oh my God, I can't believe I didn't do it,' " he told 6ABC.

Greg Koveal, a SEPTA finance manager, said he knows many of the winners and personally delivered the news to a friend who won. "I said, 'What's the first thing you're going to do?' and he said, 'I'm going to go to church,' " Koveal recalled.

Patrolling the concourse at Suburban Station, SEPTA Transit Police Officer Darrell James, 26, feigned physical pain when he heard the payoff amount for the winning workers. Then he smiled and said, "It's the one-time payoff for me. What I'm thinking is, give me [my] $2.5 million in cash.

"I would still come to work every day, so nobody would know," James said, "and after I got home, I'd check my bank account every day, like 'Ahhh.' "

In all seriousness, James said, if he won, his first stop would be the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia to make a donation.

For a SEPTA maintenance worker standing nearby who gave his name only as "Woodrow," it would be paying off his daughter's college tuition, then taking care of bills for people from his church who need it. Then, of course, he'd be living comfortably.

"I'd be out of here," he said to James with a chuckle, as they both shook their heads at the miracle of sudden millions.

"I'd buy some rollerblades," the cop added, the pair bursting into laughter.

At the 69th Street Transportation Center, in Upper Darby, Rashaana Holder, a Route 21 bus driver, took a smoke break and let her mind run wild about if she won the big jackpot.

"I'd give each one of my children a million dollars and my phone number - because they would never see me again," Holder said as passengers boarded her parked bus. "I don't know the winners but I wish I did."

Greg Pierce, a Route 105 bus driver, ended his smoke break by saying that job-creation could be an offshoot of the SEPTA 48's windfall. "Forty of them will probably quit by the end of next week," he said, "So, SEPTA will probably be hiring soon."

Pierce said that he'd likely quit, too, if he were a newly minted Powerball winner. "There's 48 less poor people in Philadelphia now."


Contact Dan Geringer at 215-854-5961 or geringd@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter at @DanGeringer.

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