More than two weeks after she disappeared while hiking, Haiku resident Amanda Eller was found alive this afternoon within the Makawao Forest Reserve.
“We did it, man! We found her,” said Javier Cantellops, one of a core group of friends and family who spent the last 16 days combing the area for the missing woman.
Cantellops, a former Special Operations Airborne Ranger with the 3rd Ranger Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment, according to his business website, said he and fellow searchers Chris Berquist and Troy Helmers were aboard a helicopter searching an area far east of earlier search efforts when they spotted Eller in a creek bed between two waterfalls.
Cantellops said the area was “way east” of the Bamboo Forest and Commando Trail.
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Eller, who went missing on May 8, was in good condition and high spirits when she was airlifted to a designated landing zone to be reunited with her family.
The good news broke on a Facebook page devoted to the search around 4:30 p.m with a post that read: “Urgent update! Amanda has been found. She was injured in the forest. She is being air evacuated now. She just talk to her father on the phone. Amanda Eller is alive !!!!”
The post drew immediate response from thousands of people — from Hawaii to Eller’s hometown of Mechanicsville, Maryland, to points abroad — who have been tracking the story. Within the first hour, the post drew more than 7,000 reactions, 2,000 comments and 3,000 shares.
Eller, 35-year-old physical therapist and yoga instructor, had not been seen since the morning of May 8, when she was captured on surveillance video shopping at Haiku Market and mailing a Mother’s Day gift to her mother at the Haiku Post Office.
Her white Toyota Rav4 was spotted shortly after noon by an off-duty firefighter in the parking lot of the Makawao Forest Reserve, where she was known to hike. It was still there at 7 p.m. when staffers closed the gates to the park. She was reported missing the following morning by her boyfriend.
Fire rescue crews and more than 100 volunteers mounted an intensive land and air search of the area. The effort expanded to high-tech GPS mapping and the dispatch of a team of hiking dogs as the days stretched to weeks.