A former Payson Town Council member and his wife were air-evacuated to a Valley hospital Thursday morning after their southbound car rolled over in the median of the Beeline Highway at the entrance to Rye.
Department of Public Safety Patrolman Burt Cheney said Anthony (Tony) Plonski, 77, and his wife, Elsie (no age available), were in stable condition Thursday afternoon at Scottsdale Osborne Hospital.
Cheney said the couple each suffered blunt chest trauma and were taken to the Valley hospital, mostly for observation because of their age.
Cheney said Plonski took the proper evasive action when he tried to avoid another southbound car that cut in front of his Dodge sedan from the right-hand lane.
The driver of the other car, a Cadillac sedan, reportedly said that he did not see Plonski's vehicle when he attempted to go across the highway to Rye.
Officers cited the driver, John Patrick VanLingen, 44, of Phoenix, for making an improper left turn and for not having mandatory insurance.
He and his two passengers, Jo Ann Lyons, 24, and her mother, Ruth Ann Lyons, 54, both of Phoenix, were transported by Canyon State Ambulance to Payson Regional Medical Center, where they were treated and released.
Cheney said Plonski attempted to avoid the collision and applied his brakes, but hit the left front end of the oncoming Cadillac. Plonski's car then flipped over in the median, trapping him and his wife.
Payson Fire Department paramedics, who responded to the scene just 12 minutes after receiving the initial call at 10 a.m., had to use the Jaws of Life to extricate the couple from the car.
Two Valley medical helicopters were dispatched to Rye and air-evacuated the Plonskis to the Valley hospital.
Payson Fire Chief John Ross said paramedics were assisted at the scene by some "excellent citizens." He said those who helped the paramedics knew what they were doing and contributed greatly to the rescue effort.
The Plonskis have been Payson residents since 1979. Mr. Plonski was elected to the Town Council in 1984.
He is a World War II veteran and a former building inspector from Oyster Bay, N.Y. He was in sales for 20 years, owned and operated a motel in Connecticut and was a reserve police officer for seven years.
Plonski also served on the Payson Planning and Zoning Commission and is a member of Kiwanis International and the Elks Club.
He and his wife have been married 54 years. One of the couple's four children, Robert, died this past year after a long illness. Three other children and six grandchildren live out of town.
Mr. Plonski is a Eucharistic Minister at St. Philip's Catholic Church and both he and his wife have been active members of the church.