The bodies of two men who were cleaning a 23-foot-deep water well when its walls collapsed on them were recovered Thursday.

It took a team of six workers five days to reach the victims, whose names have not been released. Water at the bottom of the shaft continued to erode the well walls and hampered efforts to dig the bodies out, said Donald Nielsen, a safety engineer investigating the cave-in for the state Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The two men were cleaning the well of silt Saturday at the Highland Valley Ranch when the walls collapsed, burying them under 18 feet of granite blocks and dirt. Initial reports said the men had completed their work, removed a metal sleeve used to shore up the walls, then reentered the shaft to retrieve some tools.

The victims, who were employed part-time by the Curtis Drilling Co. of Vista, are believed to be Mexican men in their mid-20s.

Nielsen said his investigation would take at least a week.

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