The victims—two men and a woman—were from two families from Texas who were spending the holidays together, along with their two girls, police said.
They had been exploring scenic Bambarra Beach on the sparsely populated island of Middle Caicos when disaster struck on Monday, police and local residents said.
The children were plucked from the ocean by rescuers and were being cared for by local social welfare services.
The body of a 34-year-old woman washed ashore shortly after the incident.
Searchers scouring the beaches recovered the second body a few hours later. The third was discovered early yesterday morning with assistance from the US Coast Guard.
Residents said the families may have been attempting to cross the half-mile distance through shallow water from Bambarra Beach to nearby Pelican Cay.
Police Commissioner Trevor Botting described the incident as a “terrible tragedy”.
“Five tourists from two families got into difficulties in the waters off Middle Caicos. Whilst two children were thankfully recovered alive from the water, two adults related to one of the girls were recovered but sadly they had died. One other man, related to the other child, was found early today and has also died,” he said.
The tragedy has triggered calls locally for increased warning signs on the islands’ often deserted beaches.
The Turks and Caicos Islands is a British overseas territory that consists of two island chains southeast of the Bahamas (Trinidad Express)