They loved parties, fashion, music and dancing, and were such good friends, they had planned to become roommates when they got out of the Army.

Instead, the two young women died together Saturday night after being hit by a train on the tracks east of Heidelberg, Germany.

The two were identified Tuesday by V Corps as Spc. Latosha B. Vines, 22, and Pfc. Lena Karungi, 21. Both were part of V Corps’ Special Troops Battalion.

The two had left a party that evening in Neckarhausen, walked across the railroad tracks’ pedestrian bridge and were in the parking lot near the car they were going to be leaving in when they made what turned out to be a fatal error. They needed to go to the bathroom, a friend who was with them said, and decided to duck behind some bushes a few steps away — but right up against the tracks.

Pvt. Jaimi Ogunmefun was with the two.

“I didn’t hear no train,” he said Tuesday during an interview. “I just heard the wind coming. I screamed out their names, and nobody answered.”

Karungi died at the scene. Vines died on the way to the hospital, authorities said.

A memorial service for the two will be held at 2 p.m. on Oct. 26 at the Patrick Henry Village Chapel.

The loss of the two young women has hit the battalion hard.

“They were just so vibrant and fun and alive,” said Spc. Nikki Fann.

The two were often together, had the same clothes, though in different colors, and liked to play their music loud in the barracks they called home. They also liked to get out of the barracks.

“I’d go up to Latosha’s room … and they’d be, like, ‘I want to go out tonight,’ ” Ogunmefun said.

Karungi, originally from Uganda, had moved with her father and brothers to Boston a few years ago, Spc. Sharanda Manley said. She had joined the Army to get money for college, and had become a U.S. citizen this summer. A V Corps paralegal assistant for the past 15 months, she had planned to become a paralegal, although she also dreamed of being a model.

Known for her sweet disposition, she was also renown for her vast collection of shoes — so many they didn’t all fit in her room — and interest in dance.

“We were supposed to enroll in ballroom dancing,” said Manley, tearing up.

Vines had spent six months at Camp Victory, Iraq, right after arriving as a personnel clerk for V Corps in September 2003. She was planning to leave the Army, which she had joined because she liked to travel and see new things, in March.

Vines also loved music and dancing and fun. She also had a thing for tigers, her friends said, with a collection of 20-something stuffed animal tigers, including one whose eye color changed.

She and Karungi talked about both moving to Vine’s hometown: Camden, Ala., getting a place together and attending college.

Lt. Col. Matthew Zimmerman, battalion commander, said after he saw the accident scene, it became clear the two had made an error in judgment that many might make.

“Once you see the site, you see how it would happen,” he said. “They just decided to step behind some bushes.

“I guess the lesson is German trains are fast, they’re silent and they come often,” Zimmerman said.

author picture
Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

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