“I Chose Life”: Lost Maui Hiker Survives More Than Two Weeks In Forest
Amanda Eller with her rescuers. Photo by Javier Cantellops

“I Chose Life”: Lost Maui Hiker Survives More Than Two Weeks In Forest

A woman who went missing for 17 days after taking a supposedly three-mile hike was found by a helicopter crew on May 24, 2019.

35-year-old Amanda Eller, a physical therapist and yoga instructor, was spotted three miles from where she started hiking in Hawaii’s 2,093-acre Makawao Forest Reserve.

According to Eller, she was jogging on a trail on May 8 when she pulled over to rest. As she was trying to make her way back to her car, she realized that she was walking deeper into the forest.

After several hours of wrong turns, she found herself lost and unable to make her way out of the maze of vegetation.

Eller’s family and friends launched a search party, but after three days with no sign of her, officials followed standard procedure and called the search off.

But the people who knew Eller didn’t give up on her and continued the search on their own. They offered a $50,000 reward and raised funds to extend the search from up in the air.

At the same time, Eller also continued to fight for her survival. She powered through the heat during the day and the cold during the evening. At one point, she lost her shoes in a flash flood and had to resort to crawling through the forest after fracturing her leg and injuring a knee.

Although Makawao Forest Reserve has seven developed trails, most of it is covered by thick vegetation and rugged terrain.

Being resourceful, Eller was able to keep from being completely dehydrated and hungry by drinking from streams, picking fruits from trees and eating moths that landed on her.

Rescuers’ efforts paid off when Peter Vorhes, a helicopter pilot on the rescue mission, spotted Eller on top of a waterfall.

Eller lost 20 pounds during the ordeal and suffered from severe sunburn and a fractured leg from falling into a ravine.

“There were times of total fear and loss and wanting to give up… and I chose life.” Eller said from her bed at Maui Memorial Medical Center.

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