MAUI, HI– More than two weeks ago, Amanda Eller hiked into a forest in Hawaii and disappeared.
Since then, rescuers such as Javier Cantellops have scoured the Makawao Forest Reserve on the island of Maui, searching for the 35-year-old physical therapist and yoga instructor.
Their hard work finally paid off Friday when they looked down from a helicopter and saw Eller between two waterfalls, walking barefoot through a ravine, waving her arms.
“We all look to our right … and out of the woodwork, man, you see Amanda Eller, my friend, coming out, waving her hands,” Cantellops said.
“It was unbelievable, dude,” he said. “And we all of course lose it.”
According to a Facebook page dedicated to finding her, Eller was evacuated from the ravine by helicopter and taken to a local hospital. Footage from CNN affiliate KHON in Honolulu showed a basket being lowered into the ravine and carrying Eller away to safety as Cantellops and other rescuers celebrate.
Her mother, Julia Eller, told KHON that her daughter’s leg was fractured and would require additional treatment, but she was otherwise in “surprisingly good shape.” She lost about 15 pounds, according to Cantellops.
Amanda Eller first vanished after she got injured while hiking through the forest May 8 and was reported missing the following day. Her disappearance inspired a joint search and rescue effort by multiple agencies, which found her car in a parking lot at the reserve.
But even after more than two weeks, those who knew her held out hope that Eller was alive — though the Facebook page indicates family and friends were starting to consider the possibility she had been abducted.
“I felt in my heart she was alive,” her mother told KHON. “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.”
Cantellops attributed Eller’s ability to survive to her resourcefulness and her work as a physical therapist and yoga teacher.
“And those two things together are tied with her knowledge of the local vegetation there and the plenty of water, our beautiful tropical climate,” he said, adding that he knew all along “she can make it.”
According to her website, when Eller’s not treating her patients or teaching yoga, she’s exploring the outdoors, scuba diving and hiking.
As for the rescuers, they’re relieved and in a celebratory mood. Posts on the Facebook page said there would be breakfast and mimosas Saturday morning at the base camp.
“I was crying tears of joy,” Eller’s mother told KHON. “I’m just so incredibly grateful to have my girl home.”