Flames engulf the Whittaker home as firefighters battle the Rocky Gap blaze.
One of the world's biggest early Powerball lottery winners is facing disaster after his West Virginia home burnt down yesterday.
Jack Whittaker won US$314.9 million in the 2002 Powerball multi-state lottery. At the time it was the largest jackpot ever won by a single winning ticket in the history of American lottery.
Jack Whittaker and his family collect the record Powerball jackpot check at the lottery headquarters in 2002.
The house was not insured and suffered extensive damage, eventually being declared a total loss.
Whittaker said he was on his way to Ghent, West Virginia, to work when his wife, who was inside the brick structure, called him about the fire.
Fire crews got the call at 6:59 a.m. and the house was already engulfed in flames when they arrived.
Whittaker's wife smelled smoke and was able to escape unharmed with the family dog, but a cat died in the blaze, he said.
As firefighters fought the flames on Friday morning, small explosions — apparently from small propane tanks — could be heard coming from the residence. At one point, an Appalachian Power Co. transformer near the house also exploded.
Whittaker said he wasn't sure how the fire started.
"(There) won't be much to haul away — a bunch of bricks, that's it," he said.
He said that he didn't have insurance and would probably move to another building in front of the burned residence.
The 55-year-old was already a millionaire when he purchased the $315 million winning ticket at a West Virginia supermarket on Christmas Day, but encountered a stream of bad luck which has continued through to today.
Thieves broke into Jack Whittaker's car in 2003 and stole over half a million dollars in cash.
In August 2003, less than a year after the contracting firm president took home his prize, thieves broke into his car while it was parked at a West Virginia strip club. They made off with $545,000 in cash, which Whittaker reportedly carried around in a suitcase.
Jack Whittaker and his granddaughter Brandi Bragg, who later died in 2004 in a suspected murder.
Whittaker was later sued by Caesars Atlantic City casino for bouncing $1.5 million worth of checks to cover gambling losses. Whittaker also countersued, claiming that his losses were supposed to be credited due to a slot machine he developed and that they in fact owed him money.
On January 11, 2007, a legal complaint against Whittaker alleged he claimed that on September 11, 2006, thieves took all of his money.
The thieves, according to the account, went to 12 branches of the City National Bank and cashed 12 checks. The incident came to light because Whittaker had not been paying money to a woman who had previously sued him.
Ginger McMahan (left), Whittaker's 42-year-old daughter and the mother of Brandi Bragg. PHOTO: Getty Images
On July 5, 2009, Ginger McMahan, Whittaker's 42-year-old daughter and the mother of Brandi Bragg, was found dead in Daniels, West Virginia. No explanation was given but officials did not expect foul play.
By 2007, Whittaker said his bank account had mostly been cleaned out.
He has blamed the Powerball win on much of the problems he’s experienced since he won.