TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A yoga instructor with Tampa ties who went missing while hiking two weeks ago sent a video message from her hospital bed hours after she was miraculously found alive in the Makawao Forest Reserve in Hawaii.
“I have the most gratitude and respect and appreciation. I can’t even put it into words for the people who have helped me, for the people who prayed for me…for the people all over the world,” Amanda Eller said as she recovered at a Maui hospital.
“There were times of total fear and loss and wanting to give up, and it did come down to life and death, and I had to choose,” Eller continued. “I chose life.”
Eller vanished on May 8 after going for a three-mile hike in the Makawao Forest Reserve. According to her mother, she took a nap and woke up disoriented. She got lost as she tried to find her car.
Eller was reported missing the following day.
On Saturday, she was found by a helicopter in a ravine by a waterfall, three miles south of an area called Bamboo Forest, according to search team members Troy Helmer, Javier Cantellops and Chris Berquist who made the discovery. The three men said Eller was looking for food when they spotted her. She had no shoes or socks on.
“I’ve been looking at pictures of that girl 100 times a day. It was no mistake that it was her,” Berquist said. “We were freaking out. We were trying not to trip over ourselves trying to get to her too fast.”
Eller is recovering in the hospital after suffering a fracture on her leg. She is also being treated for severe sunburn and an infection, her mother told KHON-TV.
Doctors said she stayed hydrated by drinking river water and ate fruit, such as guava, from the trees.
“Believe it or not I was expecting to see more. You would expect to see, you know, electrolyte imbalance, severely dehydrated, none of that. Amazingly she looks great,” a doctor told reporters.
“I felt in my heart she was alive,” said Eller’s mother, Julia. “I never gave up hope for a minute. Even though at times I would have those moments of despair, I stayed strong for her ’cause I knew we would find her if we just stayed with the program, stayed persistent and that we would eventually find her.”
KHON spoke with Eller’s friend Sarah Haynes, who aided in leading search efforts.
“It’s like a relief we were on our last few days of doing this physical search, and we found her, and she can talk, and she is bawling and is talking to her father on the phone and super relieved,” Haynes said. What we know is they’re airlifting her out of there and I’m going out there to meet the family. Amanda is alive and this community brought her home.”
“If there is somebody that will be able to stick it out and be smart and use resources and save energy and keep themselves alive, it’s Amanda,” said Eller’s friend Shanna Olenik, when she spoke to News Channel 8 previously.