(HONOLULU) — The woman who was rescued after going missing for more than two weeks in a forest in Hawaii said on Saturday that she had to choose between life and death in order to stay alive.
“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,” said Amanda Eller, 35, from her hospital bed, hours after rescuers in a helicopter plucked her from a ravine. “I chose life.”
Eller had been missing for 16 days when she was found in good condition on Friday at about 5 p.m. local time.
She thanked the Maui community, the volunteers who helped look for her and those who donated to help fund the search.
“People that know me, that don’t know me, just under the idea of helping one person make it out of the woods alive just warms my heart,” she said in a video posted on the Facebook page “Find Amanda,” which was created after she went missing.
Eller is recovering from her ordeal “remarkably” with only a fracture on her leg and needs some treatments on her ankles, her mother, Julia Eller, told Fox affiliate KHON-TV.
“She had been working on herself — she’s a physical therapist by training, so apparently those healing touches had done her well. And they said for what she had been through, she was in surprisingly good shape,” Julia Eller said.
“I’m just so incredibly grateful to have my girl home,” the elder Eller said. “I never gave up hope for a minute. And even though at times, you know, I would have those moments of despair, I stayed strong for her because I knew we would find her.”
Eller, 35, disappeared after apparently going for a hike on May 8. Her boyfriend was the last person to see Eller, a yoga teacher and physical therapist, that morning, but when she did not return home he reported her missing to police the next day.
Eller’s SUV was found Thursday, not long after she’d been reported missing, at the base of the Kahakapao Trail.
Sarah Haynes, a friend who ran the Facebook page, told ABC News that Eller was located by a search helicopter Friday afternoon in a ravine near Twin Falls. Eller was able to flag down the helicopter, Haynes said.
One of the rescuers said they found her in a stream bed.
“She was waving up at us while we were in the helicopter, and we got her out nice and safe,” Chris Berquist, who was in the helicopter, told ABC News Radio late Friday. “She was not injured. She has a little bit of exposure from the sun, a little bit of sunburn. She lost her shoes a few days in. But no injuries.”
Eller was in good condition, considering the circumstances, and spoke to her father from the helicopter. She was met by an ambulance at the helipad and taken to Maui Memorial Hospital.
“She was very alert, she knew her father’s phone number, she knew who she was, where she was, knew exactly how long she had been out there — very surprised to see us,” Berquist said. “I’ve never felt something quite that overpowering.”
Haynes said her friend had been living on water and plants.
“She was several miles above Twin Falls, over in deep H’aiku, way off the beaten track,” Berquist said.
Earlier in the day, just hours before she was found, the reward for finding Eller was raised to $50,000.
“I haven’t seen [the family] yet, but while I was assessing her up, [another rescuer] made the call to the father and let him know. I think there was some disbelief there — ‘Are you serious? You really found her?’ — and then just explosions on both ends,” Berquist said.
Her boyfriend, Benjamin Konkol, told ABC News on May 16 that he believed she was still in the forest and did not suspect foul play.
“She’s my soulmate, she’s the love of my life and I feel that she’s still out there. … I’d really like to stop spending my evenings alone and have my love back,” he said at the time.
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