The three marines from Quantico were pushing their disabled Volkswagen to the side of Shirley Highway about 3 a.m. last Feb. 26 when another car crashed into them from behind.

Pfc. Christopher S. Engle, 19, of Westville, Fla. lost a leg in the accident and another, Pfc. Walter Jordan, 18, of Macon, Ga., lost both legs. Both died several days later.

Yesterday, an Arlington Circuit Court jury convicted the 20-year-old Alexandria waiter, whose car struck the marines, of two counts of involuntary manslaughter and recommended a six-month jail sentence and a $1,000 fine for each death.

The jury, after five hours of deliberation over two days, also recommended that Omar Ibrahimi pay the fines by performing community service.

Judge William L. Winston, who under Virginia law may lower the recommended sentence but not raise it, set sentencing for March 21. He also will decide then if Ibrahimi should serve the jail terms consecutively or concurrently.

Ibrahimi, who was 19 at the time of the accident, testified Tuesday he had consumed "two or three" beers the night of Feb. 25 before heading home from his hotel job in the District.

Tests showed his blood-alcohol content was .13 at 4:20 a.m., about 1 1/2 hours after the accident. In Virginia, a motorist is presumed legally intoxicated if his blood-alcohol level is .10 or above.

Ibrahimi said he was driving south on Shirley Highway (I-395) near Shirlington when "I remembered that I dropped a cigarette on the floor and went to pick it up." He said he lifted his head and " . . . the next thing I knew, I hit something."

The maximum sentence for a conviction on involuntary manslaughter is 10 years in prison. Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Frank Soulier said the sentence was typical of that recommended by juries in similar cases. "That seems to go along with how juries feel in Arlington about the killing of someone while driving a vehicle," he said.

Ibrahimi is also charged with driving while intoxicated in the incident, but no trial date has been set.

Two days of testimony in the manslaughter trial included graphic descriptions of the accident by two surviving marines -- the third man pushing the car and one who was at the wheel -- other motorists who stopped to help, and a state trooper.

Soulier told the jury in closing arguments that Ibrahimi could be found guilty either because his intoxication caused the accident or because he was criminally negligent in not seeing the marines.

"His visual perception was totally distorted. There was not an attempt to put on the brakes; there was not an attempt to swerve; there was not an attempt to avoid the collision," the prosecutor said.

Ibrahimi's attorney, Leon Demsky, cited testimony showing Ibrahimi did not exhibit signs of drunkenness such as staggering, slurred speech or slow responses. He argued that Ibrahimi's failure to see the marines was a mistake but did not constitute criminal negligence.

"He should have seen them. But was he so grossly negligent as to have his actions constitute a total disregard for human life?" he asked in closing arguments.