After 17 days in the Hawaiian wilderness, a missing hiker spotted a rescue helicopter and started bawling with joy.
Amanda Eller, 35, was reported missing on May 8 after she went for a hike, according to the Maui Police Department. Her car was found by police in the parking lot at the Makawao Forest Reserve one day later. Her phone and wallet were located inside the vehicle, KHON 2 in Honolulu reports. Although it wasn’t unusual for her to hike without her phone, as time went on her family expressed fear that foul play may have been involved.
However, the family of Eller were relieved to find out that wasn’t the case. On Thursday, a helicopter spotted Eller, who was injured and considerably thinner than when she ventured into the woods.
She was discovered deep in a ravine between two waterfalls, according to the official Facebook page which was created for the effort to find her.
“Amanda was found by our own search team captains Chris and Javier!!” the page stated. “They were in a helicopter searching out of the general area where we have been in. She spotted them and they spotted her at the same time. She waved them down.”
Eller broke down in tears of happiness and relief.
“I looked up and they were right on top of me,” she said in a video interview from her hospital bed. “I was like, ‘Oh my God,’ and I just broke down and started bawling.”
The rescuers gave her a phone and let her call her parents.
Eller, an experienced hiker, called the 17 days out in the wilderness some of the the toughest days she ever had to endure.
“It’s been a really significant spiritual journey that I was guided on. There were times of total fear and loss and wanting to give up, and it did come down to life or death and I had to choose,” she said. “I chose life.”
The Maui Memorial Medical Center, where Eller had been staying, announced on Sunday that Eller has been released from the hospital “on her own accord to continue her rehab and recovery with family and loved ones.”
Eller had become disoriented while out on a hike on May 8 and got lost without the aid of her phone or GPS, according to the TODAY Show. She lost so much weight, she wasn’t sure she’d survive, she told the New York Times. She ate plants and berries, and even moths. Some nights she slept in mud. During at least one night, she slept in a boar’s den. At one point, she fell off a 20-foot cliff fracturing her leg and forcing her to crawl as the only means of getting around. One photo shows her ankles in rough condition.
“I think a lot of her survival has to do with who she is,” Javier Cantellops, one of the rescue workers who was in the helicopter, told the TODAY show. “Her experience in the forest itself, her knowledge of the vegetation, but in reality her physical therapy, her expertise in the human anatomy. I think that her injuries, she was able to treat them and treat herself and pretty much be able to assess her situation out in the field and be able to move forward with those injuries.”
Eller, a Maui resident, works as a physical therapist and yoga instructor.
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