Deadly Sunflower Stretch Bypassed To Save Lives

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Stacy Porter was driving home to Payson late one night in 1995, when the Beeline Highway changed her life.

Her two small children were asleep in the backseat of her Datsun B-210 and her boyfriend, Tom Cain, was in the passenger seat. Near Sunflower where the old Beeline is a swerving, curving switchback her car was struck head-on by an oncoming car and was sent flying off the side of the road.

It took three hours for emergency crews to cut her mangled body from the wreckage. Stacy's children, who were wearing their seat belts, walked away from the accident with minor bumps and bruises. Her boyfriend suffered major head trauma, and for days after the crash, slipped in and out of a coma.

Stacy's injuries, however, were the most severe.

"I lost five pints of blood," she recalled from her home in Texas Thursday. "My tibia and fibula in both legs were broken, my left hip was dislocated, my left ankle crushed, and my left arm, and left elbow were shattered."

Stacy was in a wheelchair for six months, and had to use a walker for another three months as she learned to walk again.

By the numbers

Stacy's brush with death is listed among the accident statistics recorded by the Arizona Department of Transportation.

Since 1991, ADOT has recorded 1,969 accidents on the Beeline between Fountain Hills and Payson. Of those, 725 of those accidents injured 1,205 passengers and 40 of the accidents killed 47 people.

In the 10-miles stretch near Sunflower, white crosses sprout up along the highway, marking the spots where 13 people were killed during the past decade. There were a total of 455 accidents in the Sunflower area from 1991 to 2000, injuring 274 passengers.

It was three years after the accident before Stacy could muster up the courage to drive that stretch of road again. But even then, she said, she experienced overwhelming fear and panic during the drive.

Stacy still needs reconstructive surgery on her left ankle, and she said she still thinks about that night often and she still has trouble driving at night.

"Hopefully, the next time I come home to see my parents, I won't be driving that stretch of highway," she said. "Hopefully, I will finally be able to get over that fear."

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