More than two weeks after getting lost in the Hawaiian wilderness, Amanda Eller has finally been found on Friday, May 24.
Last seen on her way out of the Haiku Post Office on Wednesday, May 8, she was believed to have gone on a run or hike in the forest after her car was spotted at the Makawao Forest Reserve with her cellphone and wallet inside later on the same day.
Eller later revealed that she went on a 3-mile run and then found herself disoriented and lost in the forest. For 17 days, she lived off what she could find and tried to find a way out of the wilderness.
"It came down to life and death and I had to choose. I chose life," Eller told KHON2. "I wasn't going to take the easy way out. Even though that meant more suffering in me for myself."
Against all odds, rescuers found her in relatively good shape, and she is now currently recovering in a hospital in Maui.
How Did She Survive?
A physical therapist and yoga instructor, Eller had to rely on her resourcefulness to survive her 17-day ordeal, and there were moments when she didn't think she would withstand the tough elements.
Eller ate wild raspberries, strawberry guavas, and even a number of moths to sustain herself, according to Maui News. At one point, she even attempted to catch crawfish but was unable to do so. The Haiku resident also made sure to stay near a water source.
Her friend Sarah Haynes told Maui News that Eller's family and friends never lost hope that she would be found. Eller's father, in particular, was confident that the missing hiker would find a way to survive for weeks.
"'My daughter's been preparing her whole life for this moment. And she's going to make it. She's going to live four weeks without food,'" Haynes recalled John Eller saying.
Throughout her 17 days in the forest, Eller recalled hearing about 20 helicopters flying over her. Finally, on a fateful Friday afternoon, one of the rescue team helicopters spotted her.
Eller's parents said up to 150 volunteers a day helped look for their daughter, but it wasn't until 17 days in that the lost hiker was finally found.
When the rescue team found her, she was in a deep ravine between two waterfalls miles away from the Makawao Forest Reserve area that has already been scoured by searchers in previous attempts.
Lead rescuers Troy Helmer, Javier Cantellops, and Chris Berquist only had 15 minutes of fuel left in the tank of their helicopter, and they had to choose between two different directions before packing up that afternoon. Fortunately, they chose the right one and found Eller 3 miles south of what's known as the Bamboo Forest.
"She was foraging for food, and she was just about to jump down a 70-foot waterfall and if she would have she would've jumped into a box canyon, and she wasn't going to come out," Helmer recalled to KHON2.
At that point, Eller was barefoot, her shoes getting carried away downstream as she was drying them out overnight.
While Eller had a leg fracture, abrasions, and severe sunburn, she's in relatively good condition and currently on the path to recovery.