Hawaii woman fell to ground bawling when found in forest

Amanda Eller said crews in other helicopters failed to see her earlier in her ordeal.

  • By AUDREY McAVOY Associated Press
  • Tuesday, May 28, 2019 8:51pm
  • Nation-World

By Audrey McAvoy / Associated Press

HONOLULU — A Hawaii woman said Tuesday she fell to the ground and started bawling when a rescue helicopter spotted her in a forest where she had survived for two weeks by eating plants and drinking stream water.

Amanda Eller said crews in other helicopters failed to see her earlier in her ordeal.

“I knew in the grand scheme of things, I’m on this tiny piece of rock on the top of a waterfall, and how the heck are they going to find me?” Eller said at a news conference livestreamed from Maui. “It was a miracle.”

The same group of volunteers who found her on Friday were helping search another forest for a Maui man, Noah Mina, who has been missing since May 20.

Eller had set out May 8 for a 3-mile hike in Makawao Forest Reserve. She didn’t take a cellphone and didn’t have a compass.

The physical therapist said her heart was telling her which way to turn. But when she tried to go back the way she came, that path didn’t lead to her car.

Eller said she’s normally an “overpreparer” and has food, water, sunscreen and a hat with her.

“Just that day I did not,” she said, conceding she should have taken a cellphone.

Her darkest moment came on her 14th day in the forest when helicopters passed over and failed to see her yet again.

“You lose hope,” Eller said. “Your hope meter starts to decline a little bit. And as the sun starts to go down you think, ‘OK. Another night alone, how am I going to stay warm, how am I going to stay alive?’”

Still, she said she never felt alone or fearful. She thought of her family and chose to live.

She told herself: “You can sit on that rock and you can die. You can say mercy and feel pitiful for yourself and you can play victim. Or you can start walking down that waterfall and choose life.”

Eller said a prayer for Mina, who went missing on a ridge trail near Wailuku. Eller said the area was “gnarly” and scarier than the spot where she was. She called the search for her “training” for the latest effort.

“I send all of my love and all of my support to his family and friends and his search teams,” she said.

Mina’s father, Vincent Mina, told The Maui News that first responders found his son’s flip flops about 2,500 feet above sea level. They located footprints but weren’t sure if they were Mina’s.

Vincent Mina said Chris Berquist and Javier Cantellops, the arborist and Army Ranger who led the two-week search for Eller, met with Mina’s family and were taken by helicopter Sunday to the area where he was last seen.

Eller said she’s eager to get back to work and take care of her physical therapy patients. She said she has some ankle wounds and her knee hurts, but expects to be off crutches in about a month.

“I’m so grateful to be alive. I wake up in the morning and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I had a warm bed that I got to sleep in. And my body got to rest and to heal. My ankles are getting stronger.’ Grateful for every breath. Grateful for everything. And I hope I never lose that,” Eller said.

Talk to us

More in Nation-World

A woman reacts as she prepares to leave an area for relatives of the passengers aboard China Eastern's flight MU5735 at the Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, Tuesday, March 22, 2022, in Guangzhou. No survivors have been found as rescuers on Tuesday searched the scattered wreckage of a China Eastern plane carrying 132 people that crashed a day earlier on a wooded mountainside in China's worst air disaster in more than a decade. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
No survivors found in crash of Boeing 737 in China

What caused the plane to drop out of the sky shortly before it was to being its descent remained a mystery.

In this photo taken by mobile phone released by Xinhua News Agency, a piece of wreckage of the China Eastern's flight MU5735 are seen after it crashed on the mountain in Tengxian County, south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region on Monday, March 21, 2022. A China Eastern Boeing 737-800 with 132 people on board crashed in a remote mountainous area of southern China on Monday, officials said, setting off a forest fire visible from space in the country's worst air disaster in nearly a decade. (Xinhua via AP)
Boeing 737 crashes in southern China with 132 aboard

More than 15 hours after communication was lost with the plane, there was still no word of survivors.

In this photo taken from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks to the nation in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. Street fighting broke out in Ukraine's second-largest city Sunday and Russian troops put increasing pressure on strategic ports in the country's south following a wave of attacks on airfields and fuel facilities elsewhere that appeared to mark a new phase of Russia's invasion. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
Ukraine wants EU membership, but accession often takes years

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s request has enthusiastic support from several member states.

FILE - Ukrainian servicemen walk by fragments of a downed aircraft,  in in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. The International Criminal Court's prosecutor has put combatants and their commanders on notice that he is monitoring Russia's invasion of Ukraine and has jurisdiction to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity. But, at the same time, Prosecutor Karim Khan acknowledges that he cannot investigate the crime of aggression. (AP Photo/Oleksandr Ratushniak, File)
ICC prosecutor to open probe into war crimes in Ukraine

U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet confirmed that 102 civilians have been killed.

FILE - Refugees fleeing conflict from neighboring Ukraine arrive to Zahony, Hungary, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. As hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians seek refuge in neighboring countries, cradling children in one arm and clutching belongings in the other, leaders in Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Moldova and Romania are offering a hearty welcome. (AP Photo/Anna Szilagyi, File)
Europe welcomes Ukrainian refugees — others, less so

It is a stark difference from treatment given to migrants and refugees from the Middle East and Africa.

Afghan evacuees disembark the plane and board a bus after landing at Skopje International Airport, North Macedonia, on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021. North Macedonia has hosted another group of 44 Afghan evacuees on Wednesday where they will be sheltered temporarily till their transfer to final destinations. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)
‘They are safe here.’ Snohomish County welcomes hundreds of Afghans

The county’s welcoming center has been a hub of services and assistance for migrants fleeing Afghanistan since October.

FILE - In this April 15, 2019, file photo, a vendor makes change for a marijuana customer at a cannabis marketplace in Los Angeles. An unwelcome trend is emerging in California, as the nation's most populous state enters its fifth year of broad legal marijuana sales. Industry experts say a growing number of license holders are secretly operating in the illegal market — working both sides of the economy to make ends meet. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
In California pot market, a hazy line between legal and not

Industry insiders say the practice of working simultaneously in the legal and illicit markets is a financial reality.

19 dead, including 9 children, in NYC apartment fire

More than five dozen people were injured and 13 people were still in critical condition in the hospital.

15 dead after Russian skydiver plane crashes

The L-410, a Czech-made twin-engine turboprop, crashed near the town of Menzelinsk.

FILE - In this March 29, 2018, file photo, the logo for Facebook appears on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York's Times Square. Facebook prematurely turned off safeguards designed to thwart misinformation and rabble rousing after Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in the 2020 elections in a moneymaking move that a company whistleblower alleges contributed to the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, invasion of the U.S. Capitol. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram in hourslong worldwide outage

Something made the social media giant’s routes inaccessable to the rest of the internet.

Oil washed up on Huntington Beach, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. A major oil spill off the coast of Southern California fouled popular beaches and killed wildlife while crews scrambled Sunday to contain the crude before it spread further into protected wetlands. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Crews race to limited damage from California oil spill

At least 126,000 gallons (572,807 liters) of oil spilled into the waters off Orange County.

YouTube will remove videos with misinformation about any vaccine

The ban covers claims vaccines are dangerous or lead to chronic health outcomes such as autism.