‘We knew she could make it’: Hiker missing for 17 days in Maui forest found alive
HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a remarkable turn of events Friday, a 35-year-old hiker whose disappearance more than two weeks ago in a Maui nature preserve triggered a massive search and garnered national headlines was found alive and in relatively good health, her family confirmed.
After being found, Amanda Eller was airlifted to Maui Memorial Medical Center and reunited with her family.
Eller’s condition was not immediately known, but photos posted on the FindAmanda Facebook page showed her speaking to first responders and sitting up in a gurney.
Graphic photos also showed her feet with what appeared to be cuts and infections.
Considering she was last seen 17 days ago, family members said Friday evening that Eller appeared to be in remarkably good shape.
She did not have any broken bones and was “very alert and very aware,” though she did suffer from some abrasions and severe sun exposure.
“I think she took a good fall. They found her in a deep ravine, basically unable to get out, as I understand it,” said John Eller, Amanda’s father, in an interview with Maui 24/7.
“The rescuers had to be airlifted out as well, because it was so tumultuous.”
Eller was rescued after being spotted Friday afternoon by a helicopter pilot who had been contracted by her family to continue their search.
According to the FindAmanda Facebook page, she was “somewhere way above Twin Falls ... between two waterfalls down a deep ravine in a creek bed.”
John Eller later revealed the identity of one of the men who spotted Amanda from the air as Javier Cantellops, the co-owner of a diving company on the Valley Isle.
Jubilant videos posted to Cantellops’ personal Facebook page confirm his role in the rescue.
He’s believed to have taken the first photo of Eller on Friday that was posted to social media, confirming that she was still alive.
It’s been an incredibly trying several weeks for friends and family members of Eller, who was last seen on surveillance video in the Haiku Market that was taken around 10 a.m. on the morning of May 8.
“WE DID IT!” volunteer search organizer Chris Berquist wrote on Facebook. “I can’t even BEGIN to express how moving this whole effort has been. With drive and love and perseverance, this community brought her home!”
Eller’s boyfriend reported her missing on May 9, the same day her car and cell phone were found in the parking lot of the Kahakapao Loop Trail of the Makawao Forest Reserve.
She was found roughly four miles from that parking lot, authorities said.
The joy her loved ones felt Friday at the news Eller had been found was overwhelming.
“Elated. Excited. Ecstatic,” said Julia Eller, Amanda’s mother. “I can’t even put it into words. I’m so incredibly grateful.”
[LISTEN: Amanda Eller’s mother reacts to news that her daughter has been found alive]
As word of her discovery spread across Maui, searchers gleefully scribbled messages that read “FOUND ALIVE!” on the posters that had been publicizing her disappearance.
Sarah Haynes, one of the volunteers who organized the search for Amanda Eller, wrote on Facebook that Eller was able to wave down a helicopter from a creek bed.
“She is just as strong as we always said she would be,” wrote Haynes.
“We knew she could make it this long."
This story will be updated.
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