Relatives: Crash victim feared flying and water

Tuesday, August 29th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- Although Laveta Reynolds feared flying and dreaded the water, family members said those anxieties didn't keep her from indulging a passion for traveling.

It was during a long-anticipated trip to Hawaii to celebrate 40 years of marriage to her husband, Jim, that Mrs. Reynolds apparently encountered both fears for a final time.

The Reynoldses were aboard a small sightseeing airplane Friday afternoon when it experienced trouble and the pilot crash-landed into the Pacific Ocean.

Of the nine passengers on the flight, eight, including Reynolds, 64, survived. But Mrs. Reynolds, 61, could not swim.

LuAnn Hennessee, one of Mrs. Reynolds' three sisters, said Reynolds told her "he thought she was right behind him" leaving the downed Piper Navajo Chieftain "He reached back for her but she wasn't there," Hennessee, of Owasso, told the Tulsa World.

Divers recovered Mrs. Reynolds' body from the wreckage of the plane Monday afternoon. Sonar detected the plane in 85 feet of water about 200 yards offshore.

Officials believe Mrs. Reynolds may have panicked and inflated her life jacket before the plane went down, hampering her ability to escape from the sinking aircraft.

Hennessee, who is Mrs. Reynolds' youngest sister, said Mrs.

Reynolds went into the ocean the day before her anniversary and on Hennessee's birthday. Hennessee, who said her sister never missed sending her a birthday card, received a card from Mrs. Reynolds on Monday.

Mrs. Reynolds said she wanted Hennessee to join her on the trip.

"She loved seeing new things and experiencing new things,"

Hennessee said.

Because of her fears, Mrs. Reynolds had rules about flying. She didn't want to be on an airplane on her anniversary, which was Saturday, Hennessee said.

They flew to Hawaii on Aug. 18, a day before their time-share accommodations were available. Upon their arrival, they took a wrong turn and ended up sleeping in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart, Hennessee said.

That was all right, since Mrs. Reynolds had worked 11 years as a cashier at the Owasso store and Jim was a security guard for a Wal-Mart computer facility in Tulsa, Hennessee said.

After they were awaken by a security guard who checked on them, "they got up, did some shopping, ate at Denny's" before checking into a hotel a little later, she said.

Mrs. Reynolds' co-workers memorialized the No. 7 cash register where Reynolds usually worked with flowers, her picture and other memorabilia on Monday.

Marty Cooper, the store's manager, said employees requested a moment of silence to remember the woman who had a joke, some conversation or a smile for customers.

"It's the quietest that store's ever been," Cooper said.

"You couldn't hear anything anywhere."