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Hawaii woman missing for 2 weeks found alive in Maui forest

Updated May 25, 2019 - 9:37 pm

WAILUKU, Hawaii — A Hawaii woman has been found alive in a forest on Maui island after going missing more than two weeks ago.

Amanda Eller was found injured in the Makawao Forest Reserve, the Maui News reported Friday.

Family spokeswoman Sarah Haynes confirmed she spoke with Eller’s father, John. Eller was airlifted to safety.

“I was crying tears of joy,” Eller’s mother, Julia, said. “I never gave up hope for a minute. I knew that we would find her.”

The physical therapist from the Maui town of Haiku went missing on May 8. Her white Toyota RAV4 was found in the forest parking lot with her phone and wallet inside.

Hundreds of volunteers have searched for her since. Eller’s parents had offered a $10,000 reward to encourage people to find her.

Javier Cantellops said he was searching for Eller from a helicopter along with Chris Berquist and Troy Helmers when they spotted her about 3:45 p.m. near the Kailua reservoir, according to Maui Police Department spokesman Lt. Gregg Okamoto and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Cantellops told the newspaper that she was in the bed of a creek with waterfalls on either side.

He told CNN he saw Eller waving her hands at the helicopter.

“It was unbelievable, dude,” Cantellops said. “Seeing her for the first time in a long time was just unbelievable. It was nothing short of elation.”

Eller was in an area with thick vegetation, he said. “That vegetation is so thick, it’s a miracle that we saw her,” Cantellops told CNN.

The Maui Fire Department brought Eller to a hospital for evaluation, Okamoto said in a statement.

Her mother told the Maui News that Amanda Eller survived by staying near a water source and eating wild raspberries and strawberry guavas. She even ate a couple of moths, Julia Eller said.

Her daughter tried to catch some crawfish, but she was “not very successful,” Julia Eller said.

“She lost quite a bit of weight, as you can imagine, being lost for that amount of time,” Julia Eller said. “But she was able to survive it. She had the right skills and did the right things to buy time so that we had a chance to find her.”

Amanda Eller suffered a leg fracture, abrasions on her ankles and a severe sunburn, but Julia Eller told the Maui News that her daughter’s spirits were good.

“And all of those things are treatable,” Julia Eller said.

A photo was posted to a Facebook page tracking the search, showing a smiling Eller with what appeared to be injuries to her face and dirt on her clothing. The photo shows Eller surrounded by Cantellops, Berquist and Helmers.

Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino said he’s grateful for the efforts of family, friends, volunteers and first-responders.

“This search and rescue was truly a community collaboration of Maui County first responders, family, friends and community volunteers,” Victorino said in a statement. “I extend my deepest appreciation for everyone involved in searching for and locating Amanda. Your work, determination and sacrifice has helped return her to her loving family. God bless them all.”

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