There are plenty of adventurers who find the open desert alluring, and many of the most seasoned are well acquainted with the particular dangers such terrain presents.
But on Feb. 2, he went out for a ride and didn’t come back. After a couple of days, he was officially reported missing, and friends, family and search teams began combing the desert, starting with his favorite trails.
“We know he went out at 4 p.m. on Wednesday because of the security camera, but we were actually not aware he was going [out riding] when it happened,” Alicia Rodriguez, who has a daughter with Villalobos, told KOLD-TV in Tucson.
“We only became aware that he had not returned from his bike ride on Friday,” she said. “As soon as I heard that, that he hadn’t come back from just a bike ride, I knew it wasn’t good.”
Meanwhile, the 32-year-old Villalobos had crashed and fallen into a washed-out hole in a trail near Ina Road and Interstate 10, fracturing his spine. The hole was about 2 feet deep and 7 feet wide, and there he stayed for four days without food or water in the freezing cold — until his knight in shining armor appeared on Saturday.
It was a homeless man, Coleman Durham, who lived in a nearby wash. For whatever reason, he had decided to take a different route to the local Circle K that day, and he stumbled upon the hole and spotted the green dirt bike and then Villalobos.
“I got off on one of the trails and was pedaling and pedaling. … I see this ravine with a green bike down there,” the 57-year-old Durham said. “I said something and [Villalobos] says, says something about help him, ‘Help, help!’
“He said he couldn’t feel his legs and I didn’t want to mess up his back any worse. He could move just fine top side, but his legs didn’t move around. Of course, I didn’t have a phone. He asked me to call the police for him and please go get him an orange juice and some water.”
Villalobos also offered his bike in exchange for help, but Durham refused and went to alert the staff at Circle K. They came back with him armed with a blanket, water and orange juice.
Authorities were soon on the scene, and Villalobos was transported to the hospital.
“It’s crazy because we were walking so close to him, so it’s just like, ‘How did we not walk by there?’” Rodriquez said. “Also, the helicopter was so close. How did we miss him? I know that he was conscious the whole time. He even got bitten by a coyote on almost the third or last night. He remembers it and has the bite on his wrist. He says he started screaming and it ran away!”
The family is thankful for their personal miracle. Villalobos’ daughter, Cassandra, started a GoFundMe page to help raise funds for his medical costs. Villalobos has a long road of recovery ahead of him, and doctors have warned him that he might never walk again.
“My dad, my family and I want you to know how grateful we are for your support,” she wrote. “The kindness and generosity of friends, strangers, and our friend Coleman the homeless who rescued him are the silver lining in all this. We are working on meeting Coleman to see if he will accept help from my family and everyone that is thankful for his heroic act.”
“I don’t think there’s any other way to explain it,” Rodriquez said. “To survive four days without water and four really cold nights, it really is a miracle.”
Their hero doesn’t see himself the same way the family does, but they’re hopeful they can find a way to show him how grateful they are.
“Oh, I’m not a hero,” Durham said. “I’m just, just — just Coleman.”