SINGAPORE - Thinking it was a piece of litter no one wanted, he picked up the 4-D ticket from the floor of the bus to throw it away as he prepared to alight.
But the bus bin was full and, after taking another look at the ticket, Nanyang Polytechnic student Bryan Lee found that it was clean and not crumpled. He then realised someone might have dropped the ticket.
It turned out that the 18-year-old had picked up a winning ticket that storekeeper Neo Hock Wah's wife had lost on the same day last month.
The story had a happy ending as the two parties managed to meet each other with the help of a Lianhe Wanbao reporter after a report was published in the Chinese evening daily about Mr Neo's missing ticket.
Mr Neo, 55, told The Straits Times on Thursday (Dec 13) that his wife had spent $10 to buy the number "1989" on Nov 7, after the storekeeper had dreamt of the numbers a few days before.
It was the couple's second time buying the number since the dream. They do not often spend money on 4-D.
His wife took a bus at around 6pm to head to Yishun for dinner with their son, and while on the bus she snapped a photo of the ticket to show her husband that she had bought it.
When the 51-year-old housewife was alighting, she dropped her wallet, and the ticket likely fell out then.
Later that night, after the winning numbers were announced, the couple discovered that they had won $2,500, but their ticket was nowhere to be found.
The couple then tried to ask Singapore Pools if they could still collect the money with the picture and surveillance footage from the store as evidence, but were denied.
They were about to give up hope when friends suggested they contact Stomp or Lianhe Wanbao, which they did.
Enter Mr Lee, who was taking the same bus on the same day as Mr Neo's wife.
After seeing the Wanbao article, the business management student contacted the reporter who put him in touch with the couple. They met on Nov 19 evening at a Burger King outlet in Woodlands.
He told ST on Friday: "My priority was to find the owner. Just because I can collect the lottery money does not mean that was the right thing to do."
Mr Lee said that Mr Neo's wife told him she had been worrying for days and had lost sleep over the missing ticket. He was very glad that he could "make someone's day".
Mr Neo and his wife decided to give the Good Samaritan a $200 red packet, which he reluctantly accepted, after initially declining several times.
The storekeeper said he was very grateful to Mr Lee for returning the ticket, and gave him the money out of gratitude and goodwill.
Said Mr Lee: "I don't think this is anything to be proud of or commended for. Returning a lost belonging is just what I am supposed to do."
He added that he intends to look for an organisation he supports to donate the money to.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.