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Search for missing crew halts

A U.S. Navy warship located the overturned hull of a British yacht on Friday, a week after it went missing in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, but there was no sign of its crew as rescuers called off their search.

The Coast Guard said a helicopter from the warship spotted the hull in the afternoon, roughly 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometres) off the coast of Massachusetts. A small boat crew confirmed it bore the name of the 39-foot (12-meter) Cheeki Rafiki.

The yacht had not deployed its life raft, Coast Guard officials said. Underwater images captured by a Navy swimmer showed the raft still stowed in its storage space. The pictures had been shared with the crew's families, the Coast Guard said.

The Coast Guard halted the active search at midnight local time.

"It is with sincere compassion for the families of these four men that our thoughts and prayers are with them all during this difficult time," said Capt. Anthony Popiel, 1st U.S. Coast Guard District Chief of Response.

"It is only after our deepest consideration that we suspend our active search efforts," he said.

The Cheeki Rafiki had had been returning to England from a regatta in Antigua when it reported trouble May 15. Contact with the crew was lost the next day. Coast Guard officials said "extreme sea conditions" at the time of the distress call put the crew's estimated survival time at 20 hours.

The crew included 22-year-old captain Andrew Bridge and crew members James Male, 23, Steve Warren, 52, and Paul Goslin.

The hull had previously been spotted by a container ship last Saturday, but Friday was the first time rescuers were able to examine it, Coast Guard Petty Officer Robert Simpson said. There was a breach in the hull where the keel had broken off.

A Navy swimmer found the boat's cabin completely flooded and its windows shattered. Simpson said the swimmer also knocked on the hull and reached below the waterline but got no response.

The search covered more than 20,000 square miles (51,800 square kilometres) and involved American, British and Canadian vessels and aircraft.

The British Foreign Office said it had informed the missing sailors' families of the hull's discovery. The Foreign Office said earlier Friday that the families were "saddened to hear that the US Coast Guard will be suspending the search. But they were prepared for the fact that this would have to happen."

The Canadian Press

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