Amanda Eller, Hiker Lost in Hawaii Forest, Found Alive After 17 Days

It had been 17 days since anyone had seen Amanda Eller. Her car was spotted near 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 Ms. Eller with a broken leg, sunburns and scrapes, and a torn meniscus in her knee.

She was malnourished and dirty. But alive.

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

Ms. Eller, a physical therapist and yoga instructor, said she lost her way in the Makawao Forest Reserve on the northern side of Maui on May 8, turning a three-mile hike into a two-week fight for her life.

The reserve is more than 2,000 acres, and is surrounded by thousands more acres of dense forest full of steep ravines, lava rocks, giant ferns and thick vegetation that often must be hacked with machetes.

Ms. 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.

On Day 17, Ms. 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 Ms. 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.”

Rescue workers had been combing the thickly wooded 1.5-mile radius around Ms. Eller’s car. But on a whim, the searchers in the helicopter on Friday decided to go farther, about seven miles from the central search area by air — the equivalent of 30 miles walking in such rough conditions, said Javier Canetellops, a search coordinator who was in the helicopter.

“We all did a double-take,” he said, referring to when they saw Ms. Eller. “Where we found her is an extremely treacherous area.”

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