Update: Amanda Eller was found alive on Friday, May 24, 2019. She had been injured and was found in a creek bed. She was airlifted out of the Makawao Forest and is reportedly doing well.
Amanda Eller, 35, a physical therapist and yoga instructor in Hawaii, vanished after going for a hike on Wednesday, May 8, 2019. Her friends say Eller often jogs along the trails in the Makawao Forest and are concerned that she may have been injured during her hike, gotten lost, or potentially have been abducted or harmed. The Makawao Forest is located on the island of Maui.
Law enforcement officials first announced on Sunday, May 12, that they were scaling back the search. The Maui County Department of Fire & Public Safety then later announced that it had suspended the official search, according to KHON-TV. The Maui Police department says it will continue to follow leads and that the FBI had offered assistance, according to CBS News.
Hundreds of volunteers have continued the search efforts. Eller’s friend Sarah Haynes, who has been serving as a spokeswoman for the family, has asked for help from experienced hikers and climbers to search for Eller in the woods. A GoFundMe campaign has also been launched to help the family pay for “hiring experienced climbers/rappellers/hikers, water and supplies, helicopter and drone services, and other services.”
Eller, a native of Mechanicsville, Maryland, moved to Hawaii to pursue her medical career. She was described as a physically and mentally strong person who could survive for a long time on her own in the forest as long as she had enough water. Her parents have offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to her safe return.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Maui Police Department at (808)244-6400.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Amanda Eller’s Phone, Wallet & Car Keys Were Found With the Vehicle, Which Was Parked at the Makawao Forest Reserve
Amanda Eller was definitively last seen at her home in Haiku around 7:00 a.m. on May 8. It was her day off from work and she liked to go on hikes on those days, according to a Facebook group providing updates on the search called Findamanda. (Sarah Haynes, referenced above, is handling the updates and serving as the spokeswoman for the search).
The Maui Police Department shared in a news release that Eller was officially reported missing on May 9. They located her car in the parking lot at the Makawao Forest Reserve just before 10 a.m. Inside, they found her cellphone and wallet. The key to the vehicle was hidden underneath the driver’s side front tire.
A missing poster distributed as part of the search included that Eller’s running shoes were not in the vehicle. The poster reads in part, “Amanda may have gone running, it was her day off and this is a common place for her. It is also normal that she would leave her cell behind.” The flier also mentions that fire department officials had noticed Eller’s vehicle in the parking lot near the Kahakapao trail around noon on May 8, the day she disappeared.
2. Amanda Eller Mailed a Package From the Haiku Post Office Before Driving to the Makawao Forest Reserve on the Day She Vanished
Amanda Eller arrived at the Makawao Forest Reserve sometime during the morning of May 8. According to spokeswoman Sarah Haynes, at least three people reported to police that they believed they saw Eller between the hours of 9 and 10:30 a.m. that day. But this has turned out to be incorrect.
Haynes shared on the Findamanda Facebook page that a couple that had been hiking that morning with their dog believed it was Eller whom they had spoken with on the trail. But the woman was not Eller. The Eller family has since learned that Eller mailed a package from the Haiku post office around 10:19 a.m. on May 8. It was a Mother’s Day package sent to her parents’ home in North Carolina. This means that Eller would have arrived at the Makawao Forest later in the morning than investigators originally thought.
Haynes shared on May 15 that they now know Eller made another stop. Surveillance footage shows Eller was at the Haiku Market grocery store at 10:11 a.m. She then briefly went by the post office and left there at 10:21 a.m. They are looking for more surveillance video to determine which direction Eller headed after leaving the post office.
Law enforcement has urged any potential witnesses to come forward. Haynes added on the Facebook page that they are asking anyone with security cameras set up near Eller’s home in Haiku, or along roads leading to the forest, to come forward. Haynes wrote, “If you live on the route from Haiku to the forest and have security footage of the street, would you please see if you can spot her bright white new clean Rav4? Pictures are on this FB page. We would like to know the exact time she arrived, and make sure she was the only one in the car. We’d also like to check any cars following her. And check cars going back the other direction afterward. IF YOU HAVE STREET FOOTAGE ON MAY 8TH 7AM-2PM PLEASE SAVE THE ENTIRE DAY BEFORE IT LOOPS AND CONTACT ME.”
3. Search Teams Used Drones, Helicopters & Tracking Dogs to Search For Amanda Eller in the Forest But Did Not Yield Any Clues; a $10,000 Reward Has Been Offered for Information Leading to Eller’s Safe Return
Law enforcement officials announced on May 12 that they were scaling back their efforts in the search for Amanda Eller. Early on, the Maui Police Department, Fire Department, State DLNR Forestry, American Medical Response and Maui Search & Rescue were involved, according to a press release. In addition to foot searches, they used tracking dogs, helicopters and drones to scour the Makawao Forest Reserve but did not find Eller.
Spokeswoman Sarah Haynes described the area they were searching as very dense in an interview with with Maui Now, embedded above. She said that searchers believe they have looked through every known trail. But Haynes added that it would be very easy to miss something because it is difficult to see more than a few feet beyond the trail.
Haynes also said the forest has deep ravines and fallen trees. That is why they are asking only for experienced hikers to assist in the foot search, and for volunteers to work in pairs. Haynes shared on the Findamanda Facebook page on May 12 that 3,000 fliers were available to be hung up and distributed around the island.
The family is also offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to Eller’s safe return.
4. Amanda Eller’s Family Members Live in the Continental United States d & Were on Vacation When They Learned She Was Missing; Her Boyfriend Was the Last Person to See Her at Her Home in Haiku
Amanda Eller was originally from Mechanisville, Maryland, and several family members still live there, according to spokeswoman Sarah Haynes. Eller’s parents live in North Carolina, according to their Facebook pages. Haynes explained to Maui Now that Eller’s family had been on vacation when they learned that their daughter had gone missing. Haynes said they had gone on a diving trip out of the country which was why it took them longer to reach Hawaii.
Eller’s boyfriend, identified as Ben on the Findamanda Facebook page, has been searching the forest constantly with the other volunteers, according to Haynes. She wrote, “It pains me to even have to say this. People are asking about her boyfriend since he was the last one to officially see her and of course those closest to her are looked at. The family and Amanda‘s friends do not feel that Ben is at all connected. For starters he is a very sweet person and they had a loving relationship. He has been working on my property and I have always known him to be kind, helpful, and of the highest integrity. He is a gentle sweet soul.”
5. Amanda Eller Has a Doctorate in Physical Therapy & Teaches Yoga
Amanda Eller was born on November 4, 1983. She lists Mechanicsville, Maryland, as her hometown on her Facebook page. She stayed in her home state for college, earning a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and Exercise Science from th Unuversity of Maryland College Park in 2006, according to her Linkedin profile. Eller then earned her doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Maryland East Shore in 2010.
Eller’s physical therapy career led her to Florida. She moved to the Tampa/St. Petersburg area in 2012. But she described Hawaii as her true “home” on her professional website. She wrote, “Physical therapy jobs relocated me from my hometown in Maryland to Florida, and ultimately Maui, where I found my “home”. The beauty and aloha spirit captivated me, making this island the perfect location to offer my private physical therapy services to my Maui Ohana.”
After moving to Hawaii, Eller wrote that she had also finished her yoga teaching certification. She teaches classes at the Afterglow Yoga studio in the community of Wailuku on Maui. Eller’s bio on the company website reads, “In June 2016, she happily completed the 200hr yoga teacher training program. She believes yoga asana to be one of the most powerful injury prevention and rehabilitation practices, and is thrilled to have the opportunity to teach classes, as well as offer private sessions to her clients. Amanda’s intention is to guide fellow yogis through an energizing, upbeat practice, with focus on strength and flexibility of the entire body, for a holistic approach to physical and mental well-being.”