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Search for Amanda Eller Expands to ‘Hog Ridge’ Area

May 14, 2019, 4:17 PM HST · Updated May 15, 4:29 PM
Debra Lordan · 3 Comments
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Posters like this one on Pi‘iholo Road can be seen throughout Maui. PC: Debra Lordan

MAKAWAO, Maui–Volunteers continued their search for Amanda Eller on Tuesday, May 14, 2019–six days after she was reported missing at the Makawao Forest Reserve.

The 35-year-old physical therapist and yoga instructor was last seen by her boyfriend, Benjamin Konkol, and he said in a press conference that he “was the last person to see her” the morning she disappeared.

The misty weather on Tuesday did not deter volunteers determined to help with the search for Eller.

A group of about 25 volunteers gathered with supplies, snacks, water and cell phones armed with GPS apps to aid in the continuing search.

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Volunteer Chris Berquist, one of the search team leaders, said 135 volunteers signed in to search on Monday, April 13, and 143 joined in the search the day before.

Berquist is an experienced rescue leader who has worked with fire departments and other rescue organizations.

Today’s search was going to focus on the “hog ridge” area, he said, expanding the search area another 1.5 miles. The search had previously covered 1.5 miles in either direction from the parking lot where Eller’s car was found.

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Berquist said that Haleakalā Ranch and the state Department of Natural Resources were aiding in the search by unlocking gates to otherwise secured areas.

The search party for Amanda Eller awaits instructions on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. PC: Debra Lordan

Hog ridge drops down steeply to “double reservoir.” One of the volunteers, Javier Cantellops, a former special operations Army Ranger, was geared up to repel down the ridge to the area below.

Searches begin daily at 7:30 a.m. and continue to dusk. Search leaders say GPS is essential as an aid in their mission. Leaders and volunteers stressed the importance of staying together, hydrating and working as a team.

Enthusiastic volunteers are asked not to go “above and beyond” by breaking off from the main group. Explicit instructions are given to each group before they are lead or driven to the starting point of the day’s search.

Maps and GPS are essential tools in the search for Amanda Eller, Tuesday, May 14, 2019. PC: Debra Lordan

Volunteer Tracey Laronga said she was there “to help another family. Laronga, who described herself as Carly “Charli” Scott‘s “hanai sister,” said she is all too familiar with the impact a missing person has on family and friends. Scott went missing on Maui in February 2014.

She advises volunteers to hydrate, stick together and be prepared for tackling the rough Upcountry terrain.

At least one volunteer was said to have separated from last night’s group, and the entire operation stayed at the parking lot operations site until the person surfaced.

“No need to complicate the search by getting lost yourself,” she said. And that can be so much easier than anyone would guess, she said, as volunteers navigate the dense eucalyptus and pine forest.

Volunteer leader Chris Berquist prepares to instruct today’s volunteers, May 14, 2019. Amanda’s father, John Eller, is on the left in this photo.

John Eller, Amanda’s dad, again extended his thanks to those who have been searching for his daughter. He said he is grateful to the volunteers and to those who are praying for Amanda’s safe recovery.

Sarah Haynes, who has been collecting leads for the family, reports that there is a $10,000 reward being offered for Eller’s safe return. She can be reached at (415) 336-4591.

Haynes encouraged those that have information to either call Maui police at (808) 244-6400 or 9-1-1 in an emergency or CrimeStoppers at (808) 242-6966, if they want to remain anonymous.

Organizers were also seeking video from residents and businesses along the route from the Hāna Highway to the Haʻikū Post Office, and the Haʻikū Post Office to the Makawao Forest Reserve.

This request comes after video was reportedly obtained of a vehicle matching Eller’s leaving the Haʻikū Post Office at 10:21 a.m. on the day she was last seen. A Mother’s Day package was reportedly mailed the day she disappeared, and was received by the pet sitter of her parents yesterday, according to updates posted on the Findamanda Facebook page.

Searchers hope any additional footage could help to determine if Eller was the driver, if she was alone, what she was wearing, what direction her vehicle may have gone and if she was being followed.

*On-site reporting by Debra Lordan. Maui Now’s Wendy Osher contributed to this report.

Debra Lordan
Debra Lordan has been a writer and website editor for Maui Now since December 2014.

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