Meet The Three Hikers Who Saved A Woman’s Life On A Hiking Trail

Meet The Three Hikers Who Saved A Womans Life On A Hiking Trail

The Amateur Hikers Ugly Tale

One afternoon last March, the 22-year-old was hiking a trail in Santa Barbara, California, with her friend Brenden Vega, also 22. Their inexperience showed: The terrain was more treacherous than they had planned for, and as it began to grow dark, they struggled to find a way back to their car. Then, Guilliams landed badly when jumping off a rock, fracturing her left leg.

Meet The Three Hikers Who Saved A Womans Life On A Hiking Trail

The Hikers Search

Things only got worse from there. Their cell phones were dead, and they hadn’t brought flashlights. When Vega tried to carry Guilliams, he fell, shattering his glasses, breaking his elbow and breaking her ankle. In a matter of minutes, the couple’s pleasant day outdoors had become a nightmare. Unable to walk, Guilliams stayed put while Vega went to get help. That was the last time she saw him.


“I was yelling for help all night and the rest of the next day, even though I was losing consciousness,” Guilliams told The Huffington Post. “At some point I didn’t think anyone would find me. No one would save me and I would end up dead.” By the next afternoon, her lungs had given out and she had stopped screaming. Guilliams lay face down in mud and leaves, delirious, surrounded by buzzing flies. Around this time, three hikers approached the area. One of them, Nicole Gergen, saw “a flame of red hair” out of the corner of her eye. “Then I saw it move.”

Help That Came – The Three Hikers

Gergen, 29, a fourth-year resident in pediatrics at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Rhode Island, saw that Guilliams’ injuries were potentially life-threatening. Also on the hike with her was her boyfriend, Joe Villapiano, and his brother-in-law, Peter Biava. Villapiano called 911. He was the only one who had brought his cell phone — a suggestion initially rejected by Biava, who had recommended they not bring their phones so they could better connect with nature.

“This route had dangerous boulders and rocks so no one else was there,” Biava, 28, recalled. “Plus it was Monday afternoon during work hours. I mean, even I was only there at the time because I was unemployed.”


Villapiano, 33, then contacted Guilliams’ mother and aunt. “I had been so frightened, I’d gone to the police department. We had no idea where she was,” her mother, Sandy Lipkin, told The Huffington Post. She had last seen her daughter the previous day but became worried when Guilliams didn’t answer her calls. “Had she and Brenden moved to another state and started a new life? I didn’t know.’”

The group could best be reached by helicopter. Emergency services asked the hiking group if there was anything bright available so their position could be more easily flagged down. “I was waving my hot pink Adidas sneakers like an air traffic controller!” Gergen laughs.