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WWLTV.com and Associated Press

LONG BEACH, Ms. Two off-duty New Orleans firefighters died in a single-vehicle accident in Long Beach, Mississippi early Sunday morning, according to the New Orleans Fire Department.

Around 1:45 a.m., Tommy Ashby, 28, was driving a pickup truck westbound on U.S. Highway 90. Scott Blanchard, 27, was the front seat passenger and two other passengers were also in the car, according to Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove.

The truck ran off the road at a high speed and struck a tree on the median, Hargrove said.

Ashby and Blanchard succumbed to injuries sustained in the accident. Neither was wearing a seatbelt, according to Hargrove.

The two other passengers were hospitaliized.

Ashby had been a member of NOFD since September 20, 2007.

Blanchard had been a member of the NOFD since August 29, 2010.

'Both members were highly praised by their commanding officers and respected by their peers. Although the careers of both men were relatively short, their talents, dedication and potential were obvious and will be missed,' according to NOFD Interim-Superintendent Timothy McConnell.

Ashby and Blanchard also volunteered their time and talents to restoring fire stations damaged during Hurricane Katrina, according to the NOFD.

'We mourn the loss of three brave men who served the City of New Orleans with honor. Police Officer Rodney Thomas and Firefighters Tommy Ashby and Scott Blanchard will be sorely missed by their fellow officers, firefighters and the people they served. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families during this difficult time,' the mayor's office said.

Nick Felton of the firefighters' union said, 'We are deeply saddened by what has occurred in Long Beach, Mississippi as not only is this a loss to the community and to the families of these men, but it is also the loss of two of our family members. These young men were the future of the New Orleans Fire Department. Our thoughts, prayers, and hopes go out to the families of these two young men and we look forward to working with their family members to get them and the Department through this tough time.'

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