LOS ANGELES: An American yoga instructor who spent two weeks lost in the wilds of Hawaii, surviving on plants and water, has been found alive after an ordeal she described as “the toughest days of my life.”
Amanda Eller, 35, was rescued Friday beside a creek bed at the bottom of a ravine in a national forest on Maui after a helicopter spotted her.
She had been out on a hike when she vanished.
“The last 17 days of my life have been the toughest days of my life and it’s been a really significant spiritual journey,” Eller said from her hospital bed in a tearful video posted Saturday on the “Find Amanda” Facebook page created after her disappearance on May 8.
“It did come down to life and death and I had to choose. And… I chose life. I wasn’t going to take the easy way out, even if that meant more suffering and pain for myself,” she said.
Eller, who also works as a physical therapist, has been in the hospital since her rescue. She suffered a broken leg, a torn meniscus in her knee, sunburns, and scrapes, The New York Times reported.
A grassroots fund-raising campaign collected more than US$70,000, which paid for a helicopter to be hired for the search.
Video of her rescue shows Eller being hoisted into a helicopter as a volunteer shouts “And there she goes!” as she was lifted out of a steep ravine lined with waterfalls.
“I have the most gratitude and respect, and appreciation – I can’t even put it into words – for the people that have helped me, for the people that have paid for me, for the people that were at base camp,” said Eller from the hospital.
Eller’s boyfriend was the last to see her before she disappeared. Police found her car at a parking lot near a hiking trail.
She had gotten lost after leaving the trail to rest, the New York Times said. On the third day, she fell 6 meters off a cliff, breaking her leg and injuring her knee.
“She is just as strong as we always said she would be. We knew she could make it this long,” supporters wrote on the Facebook page, which was followed by more than 20,000 people.
Hours before she was located, her family and friends announced a US$50,000 reward for information on what they described as “her disappearance and possible abduction.”
During her ordeal, Eller lost around 7kg, Javier Cantellops, one of the people who set out to search for her, told CNN.