The five men who died at Camber Sands on Wednesday were in their late teens and early 20s and from the Greater London area, police believe.
Sussex police said they understood the men had been spending the day at the beach, near Rye in East Sussex.
Ch Supt Di Roskilly said: We believe we now know who the men are and that they came to the beach together for the day. We believe they are all in their late teens and early 20s and come from the Greater London area. These men were not fully clothed when they were pulled from the sea but wearing clothes appropriate for being at the beach for the day.
We have no further reports of anyone else missing from Camber and there are no ongoing searches related to this incident. This has been an incredibly tragic incident and we are offering their next of kin support at this difficult time and our thoughts are with them.
Four of the five men have been named locally as Nitharsan Ravi, Inthushan Sri, and Kobi and Ken Nathan. Ravi, 22, originally from Plumstead, south-east London, had studied at the University of Brighton, according to his Facebook page.
Speaking from the family home in Woolwich, south-east London, his father told the Evening Standard the family were too upset to talk. His brother told the BBC Ravi had driven to the coast with four friends.
Friends of Ravi paid tribute to him on social media. Jackson Bosco wrote: RIP Nitharsan Ravi. Can’t believe to hear the news that you were one of the boys at Camber Sands. You were truly a good person with a good heart. You are going to be missed on this earth.
Another friend, Charles Bosco, told the Guardian Ravi was a really nice and quiet boy. He will truly be missed by all his friends and family. We still can’t believe he’s gone. May he rest in peace.
It was believed a sixth person was missing but there was no search operation at the beach on Thursday and day trippers were continuing to arrive.
There was a previous death at Camber Sands in July, when Gustavo Silva Da Cruz, 19, died after getting into difficulty swimming there. Da Cruz was one of three men who got into trouble at that time – the two others, who were not connected to him, were a man aged 35 and his 17-year-old son.
The deaths have intensified calls for lifeguards to be stationed at the beach. There are no permanent lifeguards stationed at Camber Sands, and a petition on Change.org set up last month by Josie Holloway, from Greatstone, a coastal town about 10 miles away, called for them to be stationed there in the summer.
The petition has received more than 5,000 signatures and states: Camber Sands gets unbelievably busy during summer time. They have beach patrol but no lifeguards … I feel it could save lives.
Holloway told the Guardian: The reason I started the petition is because the beach gets unbelievably busy, yet no lifeguards are there to prevent people from getting taken out to sea. A lot of people mistake the beach patrol for lifeguards but in fact they are not allowed to go into the water. They are there to help lost kids and situations happening out of the water.
I think all the emergency services did an incredible job and tried their hardest. I just feel if there had been lifeguards it could have prevented a further six people dying. I hope the council take action on this. For example, I’ve heard the money from the car parks goes to the Bexhill De La Warr Pavilion. Why can’t this go towards lifeguards instead?
The list of signatories has been growing rapidly since Wednesday’s deaths. One of them, Phillip Meyer, wrote: I was on the beach today when five people drowned, perhaps they would still be alive. I cannot believe that Bottany Bay (a tiny beach around the corner) can have lifeguards but this beach with 25,000 people on it doesn’t have any!
Another, Sara Waterson, added: Nobody should have died this week on the beach; surely the council could do more?
Camber Sands was quiet early on Thursday with only a few dozen people on the beach. A member of staff at Antonio’s cafe near the seafront, who has lived in Camber for 46 years, said Rother district council needed to reinvest the tourism revenues into safety features for the beach.
The woman, who asked not to be named, said she did not know how the five people died but that the lack of lifeguards was a disgrace.
The council needs to start putting the thousands of pounds of revenue they receive from the village back into saving lives, she said. There’s a beach patrol but no lifeguard. The beach patrol focuses on helping distressed parents with lost children. I’d love to know what training they have for things like first aid. I’d be surprised if they had any at all.
Member of staff at this seafront cafe has hit out at lack of lifeguards on Camber Sands (there are none). pic.twitter.com/8R2LZnCJbk
Whitney Bibby, 20, who works in a cafe near the beachfront and was raised in Camber, said she believed the most likely cause of the tragedy was the strong riptides in the area.
Bibby said it was a commonly held view that revenues raised in Camber were disproportionately spent on the affluent town of Bexhill, about 20 miles away. There should be lifeguards, she said. It’s £12 a day in the car park, so much is raised they should put some back.
Bibby said that if lifeguards were not an option, signs or leaflets could be used to warn visitors of the dangers of the sea.
A member of staff at Laguna gift shop, who has been in Camber for more than 40 years, said up until the recent deaths she could not recall a similar tragedy in three decades. The 79-year-old said it was disgusting that there were no lifeguards.
Jane Walker, 26, from south London, went swimming in the sea off Camber Sands on Thursday. It’s awful what happened, obviously, but we’re not swimming out far and we’ve been down here a few times before so know the area, she said.
Walker said she was shocked by the deaths of the five men. I couldn’t believe it when we found out the day before we were coming down. It’s really sad. Five is so many it makes you wonder what could have gone wrong.
Walker added: I am really surprised there are no lifeguards. In fact, I don’t think I ever noticed that before. That’s crazy. It’s such a long beach and it can get so busy.
A man staying with his wife and children in a holiday cottage that backs on to the beach said they had arrived on Wednesday night and witnessed the emergency rescue attempts. The man, who asked not be named, said: There were helicopters, ambulances – the main car park was rammed with emergency services. We could see it all happening but it was getting dark. The area where they pulled the men from the sea at low tide goes really far out. But the tide then comes back really quickly, from different directions, and comes all the way back up the beach. You can be stood with water below the knee one moment and then the next you’re floating up to your neck.
The RNLI said that while it was too early to determine any change in the location of its lifeguards, the policy was under constant review and Wednesday’s events would be factored into the charity’s planning.
A spokesperson for Rother district council said: We are very saddened to hear of this incident and our thoughts are with the families of those involved.
Our beach patrols have been working with the emergency services at the scene this afternoon and will continue to provide whatever assistance is required.
Regular assessments are carried out at Camber beach, along with the RNLI, to inform what measures need to be taken to guide visitor safety and ensure the beach is safe. To date this has not identified the need for lifeguards to be deployed at the beach and there have never been lifeguards employed at the beach.
We are in regular discussion with emergency services and other colleagues to ensure that the measures currently in place are sufficient and identify any additional measures that may need to be taken, either in terms of arrangements at the beach or doing more to educate people of the dangers of the sea.
The RNLI has urged seaside visitors to take care and respect the water after Wednesday’s incident brought the number of deaths around Britain’s coastline in the past week up to 12. The sea may look appealing and the RNLI would encourage people to use it, but do so safely – it can be dangerously unpredictable, a spokeswoman said.
Please visit lifeguarded beaches and swim between the red and yellow flags – the safe swim zone and the area watched by lifeguards. RNLI lifeguards are always happy to answer any questions or advise of any risks, including where any rip currents may be, which can catch out even the most experienced swimmers.
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