The five men who died at Camber Sands in Sussex 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.
Chief 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, southeast London, had studied at the University of Brighton, according to his Facebook page.
Speaking from the family home in Woolwich, southeast 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, said 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 daytrippers were continuing to arrive.
The deaths followed another fatality 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 - the two others, who were not connected to him, were a man aged 35 and his 17-year-old son.
The deaths have also intensified calls for lifeguards to be stationed at the beach. There are no permanent lifeguards stationed at Camber Sands beach, and a petition on Change.org set up last month by Josie Holloway, from Greatstone, a coastal town about 15km 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 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.”
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 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.”
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 rip tides in the area.
Bibby said there should be lifeguards and said it was a commonly held view that revenues raised in Camber were disproportionately spent on the affluent town of Bexhill some 30km 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 if lifeguards were not option there could at least be signs deployed or leaflets handed to visitors warning them of the dangers of the sea.
She said the tragic deaths on Wednesday would “kill” business on Thursday. “By [10am yesterday] there was a long queue for the car park, there’s no one queueing now.”
A member of staff at Laguna gift shop, who has been in Camber for more than 40 years, said up until the recent deaths this summer she could not recall a similar tragedy in the previous three decades. The 79-year-old said such tragedies were “bad for Camber” and it was “disgusting” that there were no lifeguards.
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 incident would factor into the charity’s planning.
Rother district council did not comment on any future plans for lifeguards but 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.
“While it’s very upsetting to see two similar, tragic incidents this summer, over the years these kind of incidents are extremely rare and on a fine day around 25,000 people use the beach safely.
“Our beach patrols are on site throughout the summer and are able to advise people of potential dangers, reunite lost children and deal with any incidents on the beach.”
The RNLI has also urged seaside visitors to take care and respect the water after Wednesday’s incident brought the number of fatalities 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.”