Associated Press

LONG BEACH, Miss. (AP) - Two Louisiana men, identified as members of the New Orleans Fire Department, have been killed in a south Mississippi traffic accident.

It happened around 1:45 a.m. Sunday in Long Beach.

Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove identified the victims as 28-year-old Tommy Ashby Jr. of Chalmette, and 27-year-old Scott Blanchard of Metairie.

Hargrove says Ashby was the driver of a Westbound pickup truck that ran off U.S. Highway 90 at high speed and struck a tree on the median. Blanchard was the front seat passenger. Neither was wearing a seatbelt.

'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'.

Two other passengers were hospitalized.

Funeral arrangements haven't been finalized.

The mayor's office issued the following statement:

'Today, 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.'

Nick Felton of the firefighters' union issued the following statement:

'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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