The rescue mission for two men missing off the coast of Brighton has become a recovery operation, after the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said there was “no chance of finding them alive”.
The search for the two men aged 23 and 24, who were swept out to sea near the Palace Pier in Brighton, was abandoned at about 4.30am.
Sussex Police said that three men are believed to have entered the water and one man had attempted to rescue the other.
The alarm was raised just after 1am by two men, one, 26, from Brighton and another aged 23 from London.
“Very sadly, nothing has been found and it is very unlikely that anything will be,” a spokesman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said.
“This has turned into a recovery mission. Very sadly there is no chance of finding them alive,” he added.
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Detective Chief Inspector Carwyn Hughes said: "This is a tragic incident and we are liaising closely with the men's families. Every effort was made to find and rescue the two men in treacherous sea conditions during the night.
"This morning HM Coastguard are recommencing a search to the west of the Palace Pier and this is being supported by Sussex Police specialist search officers and Sussex Search and Rescue volunteers and dog teams on the relevant beach areas.
"The local Brighton seafront officers have been maintaining searches of the beach throughout the night and will continue to do so," he added.
The rescue operation had been hampered by poor weather, including severe gale force nine winds and high waves.
“The conditions for searching overnight were awful - it was pitch black and the sea was extremely choppy. It was very difficult to search,” the spokesman said.
A rescue helicopter, two all-weather lifeboats and two shoreline rescue teams from Shoreham, West Sussex and Newhaven, East Sussex were involved in the search operation.
Additional reporting by PAReuse content