UPDATE 10 p.m.: (VIDEO) Searchers at Makawao base camp react after Amanda Eller found alive in East Maui
She had been missing for 16 days in East Maui rain forest; being evaluated at hospital
Missing Haiku hiker Amanda Eller has been found alive after a fervent two-week search of the Makawao Forest Reserve, rescue personnel and a spokesperson for the family confirmed on Friday afternoon.
Maui police spokesman Lt. Gregg Okamoto said that Eller was spotted near the Kailua reservoir in East Maui at about 3:45 p.m. She was discovered by lead searchers Chris Berquist and Javier Cantellops, who had been scanning the East Maui landscape aboard a private helicopter contracted by the family to aid in the search, family spokeswoman Sarah Haynes said.
“I’ve seen that girl every day for the last two weeks about 100 times a day,” Berquist said. “There was no mistake it was her.”
Cantellops added that “as soon as we made eye contact, we knew.”
“Even from 200 feet, we knew,” Berquist said. “We thought Javier was going to jump at 200 feet. We had to keep him buckled in.”
Okamoto said the Maui Fire Department arrived on scene and was able to extricate Eller via helicopter; she was transported to Maui Memorial Medical Center for evaluation, where her father, John Eller, held a joyous press conference alongside Haynes.
“A lot of tears,” John Eller said. “It looks like she lost a little weight, got a really good suntan. Sun took its toll. It was a rough journey. It was her mental strength and fortitude, her belief in herself that kept her at it.”
Eller went missing on May 8 after going to the forest for a jog. Her white Toyota RAV4 was found in the forest parking lot with her phone and wallet inside. After police and fire personnel launched a three-day search, hundreds of volunteers followed with an all-out, daily hunt for the Haiku physical therapist. They have been stationed at a base camp in the Makawao Forest.
“There’s been a lot of speculation for the last two and a half weeks about Maui and what’s happened out here,” Cantellops said. “It wasn’t a kidnapping, it wasn’t an abduction. It was straight out of a movie.
“She took a three-mile jog, went the wrong way. Just like we’ve been saying – you get turned around in these woods . . . you get lost, you’re gone.”
Okamoto said that police were interviewing Eller and documenting her injuries, and that the case “is considered closed.”