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El Gordo: Refugee who travelled to Europe on an overcrowded boat wins €400,000 on Spain's Christmas lottery

Published 24/12/2015

A Senegalese man named Ngame speaks after discovering he won 400,000 euro in Roquetas de Mar in Almeria province, Spain (AP)
A Senegalese man named Ngame speaks after discovering he won 400,000 euro in Roquetas de Mar in Almeria province, Spain (AP)

A Senegalese refugee who made the perilous journey to Europe on an overcrowded migrant boat has won €400,000 on the Spanish Christmas lottery.

Identified only by his first name, Ngagne, the 35-year-old was one of thousands of people to take part in Spain’s famous El Gordo - the ‘fat one’ - game.

Senegalese Ngame thumbs up as he holds a photocopy of a winning lottery ticket. AFP/Getty Images
Senegalese Ngame thumbs up as he holds a photocopy of a winning lottery ticket. AFP/Getty Images
Senegalese Ngame (L) walks with a woman after knowing he is the owner of a winning lottery ticket of the Spanish Christmas' lottery draw. AFP/Getty Images
Senegalese Ngame (L) walks with a woman after knowing he is the owner of a winning lottery ticket of the Spanish Christmas' lottery draw. AFP/Getty Images
TOPSHOT - A group of people celebrate in a street of Villanueva de la Concepcion, near Malaga, as they hold a ticket wlth the first prize of the Spain's Christmas lottery named "El Gordo" (Fat One) on December 22, 2015. This year's winning number is 79140 representing takings of 4 million euros (£2.9 million). The Gordo lottery first took place in 1812 in Cadiz and has not missed a year since, continuing through Spains civil war between 1936 and 1939. In 1938, there were actually two Christmas lotteries, one held in Burgos by dictator General Francos Nationalist regime, and the other in Republican-ruled Barcelona. AFP PHOTO / JORGE GUERRERO / AFP / Jorge GuerreroJORGE GUERRERO/AFP/Getty Images

When his hometown of Roquetas de Mar won first prize in Tuesday’s draw, everybody who’d bought a ticket in the coastal resort was automatically entitled to a share of a massive €630 million jackpot.

Speaking after learning of his win, Ngagne paid tribute to the Spanish rescue workers who changed his life when they intervened to save the desperate mainly African refugees who were on his boat.

“There were 65 people on that boat," he told La Voz de Almeria. "I want to give thanks to Spaniards and the Spanish government for rescuing me when I was in the sea,” he added.

Ngagne revealed that when he and his wife made the hazardous crossing on a packed wooden vessel in 2007, they had no possessions to their name.

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El Gordo: Spanish Christmas lottery winners toast success after winning 'The Fat One'  

Once they were plucked from the sea, the couple were taken to Tenerife before settling in the town of Roquetas de Mar on Spain’s southern coast.

Ngagne revealed that he has spent the last eight years working as vegetable picker in nearby Almeria but in an incredible twist had lost the job just days before purchasing his lottery ticket.

Senegalese Ngame (C) looks at a photocopy of a winning lottery ticket. AFP/Getty Images
Senegalese Ngame (C) looks at a photocopy of a winning lottery ticket. AFP/Getty Images

He said that he and his wife had just €5 between them when they learned of their windfall.

Ngagne wasn’t the only migrant to win big in the El Gordo draw, with Moroccan-born 18-year-old Imanes Naamane revealed that her share of the winnings will change her family’s life.

"We will be able to do a lot of things - everything we want," she told La Voz de Almeria. "We were in real trouble before,” she added.

Senegalese Ngame (2nd R) wipes his eyes next to a woma who holds a photocopy of a winning lottery ticket. AFP/Getty Images
Senegalese Ngame (2nd R) wipes his eyes next to a woma who holds a photocopy of a winning lottery ticket. AFP/Getty Images

The winning number - 79140 - appeared on a total of 1,600 tickets in Roquetas de Mar. Second-prize winners included ticket-holders in Seville and Granada.

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