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Shift in Travel Plans Was Life, Death Decision

July 19, 1996|DEBORAH BELGUM | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Your job. It pays the bills. It ties you down. And once in a while, it saves your life.

That's how it worked out for Dianne Senechal, a Temecula businesswoman who originally had planned to be on TWA Flight 800 on Wednesday to start her vacation in France.

But when it came to making the actual reservations several months ago, Senechal felt she needed to skin down her annual French vacation a bit, that she couldn't take that much time off work. So she changed her plans by a day to take the same flights, but one day later. Flight 34 from Los Angeles to John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, transferring to Flight 800 to Paris.

"I'm a little stunned," said Senechal, 48, as she waited for her plane to depart from Los Angeles International Airport at 9:45 a.m. "It just preys on you that six months ago you make a decision about whether you should leave on Wednesday or should you leave on Thursday."

One little quirk in her travel plans that meant the difference between life and death.

On Wednesday, Flight 34 had nine passengers ticketed to transfer in New York to the plane that exploded in midair, a TWA employee told The Times.

Senechal's yearly trip to France is shared with 15 friends. She described their journey as one huge slumber party where they spend a few days in Paris and then on to the Loire Valley. It's a nice getaway from Senechal's work as operations manager for Nationsbanc Mortgage Co.

And Senechal was still looking forward to her trip Thursday, unworried about taking the same TWA flight a day later. Disaster never happens twice in the same place, she said. "The odds are, this is probably one of the safest flights I'll ever take."

One thought nagged at her, though. Had any of her travel mates been on Wednesday's flight to Paris? As her plane took of Thursday morning, she did not know.

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