Woman found alive in Hawaii forest says she wanted to give up

Amanda Eller was missing for 17 days after getting lost on a 5km hike

 Amanda Eller, second from left, after being found by searchers, Javier Cantellops, far left, and Chris Berquist, right, above the Kailua reservoir in East Maui, Hawaii/ Photograph: Troy Jeffrey Helmer/Find Amanda via AP

Amanda Eller, second from left, after being found by searchers, Javier Cantellops, far left, and Chris Berquist, right, above the Kailua reservoir in East Maui, Hawaii/ Photograph: Troy Jeffrey Helmer/Find Amanda via AP

 

It had been 17 days since anyone had seen Amanda Eller. Her car was spotted by a trailhead in a vast forest reserve in Hawaii, and thousands of search volunteers were scouring the jungles and streams nearby.

On Friday afternoon, less than an hour after her family announced a $50,000 reward for information, rescuers found Eller with a broken leg, a torn meniscus in her knee, and sunburns and scrapes on her body. She was malnourished and dirty. But alive.

“I wanted to give up,” Eller, 35, said from her hospital bed late Friday. “But the only option I had was life or death.”

Eller, a physical therapist and yoga instructor, said that she had lost her way in the Makawao Forest Reserve on the northern side of Maui on May 8th, when a 3-mile (5km) hike turned into a two-week fight for her life.

Eller had intended to go on a short trail walk, one she had done before. She went off the path at one point to rest, and when she resumed hiking, she got turned around.

Eller estimated that she had hiked continuously from 10.30am until around midnight that first day, looking for her car. Eller was wearing just a thin tank top, a sports bra and capri-length yoga pants. She left her water bottle, cellphone and wallet in her car. Eller said she had not brought those things because she had planned to be gone only a short time.

Things only got worse. She fell 20 feet off a steep cliff, fracturing her leg and tearing the meniscus in her knee, according to her friend Katie York. The next day, she lost her shoes in a flash flood.

At night Eller covered herself in ferns. She ate whatever she could salvage, including wild strawberry guavas and moths that landed on her body.

Meanwhile, an army of volunteers turned every stone looking for her. On Day 17, Eller was near a stream searching for “some plant to eat for dinner and some place to sleep that wasn’t directly in the mud” when she saw a helicopter. She said she had seen and heard multiple helicopters fly above her during her ordeal, according to her friend York, but none had spotted her. This one did.

“I looked up and they were right on top of me,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh my God,’ and I just broke down and started bawling.” –New York Times