A pensioner has been handed the keys to the car he won in the Great North Air Ambulance Service’s (GNAAS) annual raffle.
Tony Stephenson, from Long Newton, near Darlington, visited the charity’s base at Durham Tees Valley Airport to claim his prize – a brand new red Suzuki Altoworth £5999.
The 73-year-old beat the odds and 111,000 other tickets to take the top prize.
He said: “It was a massive shock when I found out, I couldn’t remember buying the ticket, I kept asking if they were sure it was me.”
Mr Stephenson only returned from Botswana and South Africa in 2010, having spent the previous 38 years working as an electrician.
“I was working in Redcar and I remember it being so cold one day I couldn’t feel my hands,” he said. “I saw an advert in the newspaper promising 365 days of sunshine, so I just went for it.”
Mr Stephenson is now back in Long Newton, in the very house he was born in. He said winning the car was very good timing.
“My previous car is 12 years old and is starting to have its problems,” he added. “It has rust creeping in down one side, so this came at just the right time.
“I am a real supporter of the air ambulance, they do a fantastic job. It was an honour to meet the crew, everyone is so welcoming. ”
Mr Stephenson has been playing the GNAAS weekly lottery for three years but the car is clearly the biggest prize he has won to date.
Ruth Davey, of GNAAS, said: “This is an annual life-saving raffle thathas raised £130,000 this year, taking the overall total to more than £330,000 for the air ambulance over the three years it has been running. This is a tremendous achievement and one which will save lives throughout the region.
“We would like to thank every person who contributed by buying a ticket.”
Second prize was an overnight stay at the luxury hotel Rockliffe Hall, Hurworth, and was won by a ticket holder in Prudhoe, Northumberland.
The third prize was £100, and is yet be claimed by ticket number 375432 in the Hartlepool area.