Kent Police has launched an investigation into the deaths of four people who died when a small boat capsized in the English Channel.
The force is being assisted by the National Crime Agency following the tragedy on Wednesday.
The Royal Navy, French navy, Coastguard and RNLI lifeboats were all involved in a major rescue operation off the Kent coast in the early hours of Wednesday morning when a small boat got into difficulty in the water.
Police said they are still working to establish the identity of the deceased and locate the next of kin.
National Crime Agency Director General Graeme Biggar said: “First and foremost this incident is a tragedy, and our thoughts have to be with the families and loved ones of those who died.
"Given the conditions I am also thankful that the death toll was not higher, and I pay tribute to all those who responded so quickly in the Channel on Wednesday morning.
"They undoubtedly saved lives.
“A full investigation is now underway into the circumstances around these deaths, which is led by Kent Police. I have offered them the full support and resources of the NCA, including our network of liaison officers in France who are already engaged with French partners.
“This incident, tragically, highlights the dangers of these crossings, a high percentage of which are facilitated by organised criminal networks. They treat people as a commodity to be profited from and think nothing of putting them in incredibly dangerous situations.
“Working with our partners on both sides of the Channel we are determined to find those responsible and bring them to justice.”
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