updated 1/19/2007 4:52:34 PM ET 2007-01-19T21:52:34

The U.S. Navy said Friday it had relieved the commander of a nuclear submarine that was involved in an incident that killed two sailors.

On Dec. 29, rough seas swept four American sailors from the deck of the submarine off the coast of southwestern England. The USS Minneapolis-St. Paul was leaving Plymouth harbor when the sailors were knocked into the water by surging waves. The four men were taken to a hospital in Plymouth, where two were pronounced dead.

According to officials, a Navy investigation determined that the incident was avoidable and due in part to a poor decision by the commander. He was identified by a Navy statement as Cmdr. Edwin Ruff.

According to the Navy, Ruff has been reassigned to on onshore position. The decision was made by Vice Adm. Chuck Munns, commander of the Navy's Submarine Force.

"Munns took this action due to a loss of confidence in Ruff's ability to command," said the service statement.

Earlier this week, Ruff and another officer on the submarine received letters of reprimand. The Navy did not provide further details on the findings of its investigation.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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