'You Guys Are The Heroes': Rescued Hawaii Hiker Reunites With The Searchers Who Saved Her

"I've never experienced anything like this where the community is showing up with so much freakin' heart and so much passion, and these guys were not going to give up on me, thank God!" Amanda Eller said of her rescuers.

By Gina Tron
Amanda Eller

The hiker who spent 17 agonizing days in the Hawaiian wilderness reunited with the people who saved her.

Amanda Eller, 35, was reported missing on May 8 after she went for a hike. As time went on her family expressed fear that foul play may have been involved but they were no doubt relieved when she was found alive.

On Thursday, a helicopter spotted Eller, who was injured and considerably thinner than when she ventured into the woods. She was so happy to see the rescuers she cried tears of happiness.

She saw these rescuers again in person during an emotional reunion on Monday’s TODAY Show. "You guys are the heroes,'' Eller told rescuers Javier Cantellops, Chris Berquist and Troy Helmer. "I am not the hero, I am just the girl sitting here healing my ankles."

Eller had become disoriented while out on her May 8 hike and got lost without the aid of her phone or GPS, which she typically leaves in her car while hiking, 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 her only means of getting around. One photo shows her ankles in rough condition. 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.

The Maui Memorial Medical Center, where Eller had been staying, announced on Sunday that Eller had been released from the hospital “on her own accord to continue her rehab and recovery with family and loved ones.”

Her friend and search coordinator Sarah Haynes said on TODAY that Eller is healing and is in a wheelchair at the moment.

"I am so blessed for every breath that I take,'' Eller said during the reunion.

She also thanked the community who contributed to the search.

"I've never experienced anything like this where the community is showing up with so much freakin' heart and so much passion, and these guys were not going to give up on me, thank God!" she said.

Amanda Eller

“I think a lot of her survival has to do with who she is,” 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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