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Last Updated: Saturday, 20 January 2007, 04:01 GMT
US sub chief removed over deaths
USS Minneapolis-St Paul
Two crew members died after being swept off the USS Minneapolis-St Paul
The commander of a US submarine has been removed from his post following the deaths of two crew members off the south-west English coast in December.

The two sailors were among four who were swept off the submarine, the USS Minneapolis-St Paul, by strong winds.

They were working in poor weather on the outside casing of the submarine.

Officials said a navy investigation had determined that the incident was avoidable and due in part to a poor decision by the commander, Edwin Ruff.

He has now been reassigned to a position on shore, the navy said in a statement.

The decision was taken "due to a loss of confidence in Ruff's ability to command", it added.

The submarine's executive commanding officer, Peter Young, was reprimanded.

The four were swept from the deck after the submarine left Plymouth harbour on 29 December in rough seas.

The four were taken to a hospital, where two - Senior Chief Petty Officer Thomas Higgins, 45, of Paducah, Kentucky, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Holtz, 30, of Lakewood, Ohio - were pronounced dead.

A US Navy spokesman said: "The facts of the investigation led the admiral to determine that non-judicial punishment was warranted."

The nuclear-powered USS Minneapolis-St Paul is based at Norfolk, Virginia.


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