A Hamilton woman who narrowly missed cashing in on one of the largest lottery jackpots in Canadian history says she feels like she has been struck by lightning twice.

Kathryn Jones said lightning struck once when she unknowingly purchased the winning ticket for the $50-million Lotto Max prize and it struck a second time thanks to the persistence of lottery officials who were determined to identify the winner of a jackpot that was set to expire Saturday.

The 55-year-old engineer was unaware of her good fortune because she lost the ticket matching all seven numbers from the Nov. 30, 2012 draw.

"I feel very grateful, no one had to take that initiative (to find me) and they did and I’m very appreciative," a beaming Jones told reporters Tuesday.

Even though Jones still cannot find the lucky ticket, Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. officials say they are confident she is the person who bought it. OLG informed her Thursday - less than 48 hours before the claim deadline - that she is the ticketholder.

Describing it as a "weird and wonderful journey," Jones didn’t suspect she was the ticketholder until OLG investigators knocked on her door in late October. She almost slammed the door on them because she didn't know if someone was playing a joke on her or if it was a mistake.

“At that point I had no idea what they were talking about,” said Jones, a project manager at a Cambridge engineering firm.

OLG spent months looking for the winner, with multiple public appeals and, ultimately, an extensive investigation that led them to Jones. The unusual outcome is the first of its kind in Canada.

In the months after the draw, lottery officials received more than 435 inquiries about the then-unclaimed jackpot, including one that turned their attention to an oblivious Jones, who did not file a claim.

During the investigation, the OLG used its transactions database and store surveillance video to verify Jones’ purchase of the winning ticket at a Shoppers Drug Mart on Dundas Street in Cambridge, west of Toronto. The mother of two university-aged children was able to provide a credit card statement as proof of purchase and the answers she gave investigators were consistent with the probe's findings, officials said.

Jones was introduced as the winner at a news conference at the OLG’s Toronto headquarters Tuesday, but the cheque presentation will have to wait until January.

The payout is on hold for at least 30 days, as per OLG policy in such a situation. If there are no additional valid claims, the prize will be paid to Jones.

The process was previously held up because Jones’ sister owns an Ottawa-area store that sells lottery tickets. Because of that connection, the OLG launched an additional review that found no irregularities.

Without the OLG’s perseverance, Jones’ huge windfall would have been the largest unclaimed prize in Canadian lottery history.

For Jones, that would mean no exotic vacations, no lavish gifts for her two children in university, no early retirement or whatever she plans to do with the cash.

So far, she said she hasn’t made any plans for the money.

“I’m still sort of in disbelief, actually," Jones said.

The odds of winning a Lotto Max jackpot are one in 28.6 million.

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