Day 11: Volunteers Continue to Fill in GPS Search Map

May 19, 2019, 11:24 AM HST · Updated May 19, 11:24 AM
Debra Lordan · 3 Comments
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Chis Eller, Amanda’s brother, and Chris Berquist, May 18, 2019. PC: Debra Lordan

Over 100 searchers, about 25 support staff, a dozen drivers, several drones, rappellers, divers, and one search-and-rescue canine team participated in the Makawao Forest Reserve search for Amanda Eller on Saturday, May 18, 2019. She has been missing now for 11 days—since Wednesday, May 8.

On Saturday morning, a handful of teams were sent to cover a few ridges that were blank on the saturation map, which led to finding another series of pools with a drone… which led to a rappel/free dive team dropping in to clear the stream.

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    “We had several groups go up next to the reservoir/water treatment plant and clear the gulches above and below ‘Hog Back Trail’,” said volunteer team leader Chris Berquist. “And I sent several teams up into the top of the east and west loops to start to fill in the saturation map up at the top of the loops.”

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    The Kaua‘i search dog team: two handlers and one dog. Pictured here, Timothy O’Rourke and Avi. PC: Debra Lordan

    Berquist said FEMA dogs were running Saturday morning in a few random spots, as well as the Kaua‘i search dog team.

    Timothy O’Rourke and Avi, part of the Kaua‘i Canine Search and Rescue team,  covered about 8 miles on Saturday and 10 miles on Friday—trails, gullies and streams, high and low—in an area search, O’Rourke said. He said Avi is trained to “find anyone;” Avi’s searches are not based on scent leads. They searched three streams on Saturday. O’Rourke said he and Avi will search again Sunday, but the special education teacher must return to Kaua‘i tonight for Monday classes. However, O’Rourke said another team from Kaua‘i is scheduled to arrive Monday.

    “Those guys worked their butts off covering some heavy ground,” said Berquist.

    Berquist said the overall plan is to keep filling in the saturation data on the map so the team can come as close as they can to guaranteeing that they didn’t miss Eller.

    “If you’ve been in the map room over the past few days, you’ve seen the map start to fill in, and now we’re working with an on-site update, so I’m getting the map data on my screen 5 minutes after you send it to me in camp,” Berquist said. “It really helps me to use your time and energy more efficiently so we can continue to make the most of all of the effort the volunteer searchers are putting in.”

    “This is the only way we can do that,” Berquist said. “We can absolutely keep using everyone in one way or another.”

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    Makawao Forest Reserve search volunteers. Courtesy photo

    Search Outline for Sunday, May 19

    In the morning, Berquist will take a swiftwater team up to Waikamoi Stream—more like a river—so they can drop the stream all the way down to Garden of Eden in deep Ha‘ikū.

    “It’s a relatively easy walk to the stream on the upper road and its a beautiful area, and again, we can’t rule it out until we get the data that it’s cleared,” Berquist said.

    Berquist planned to rendezvous with them at 5 a.m. to make sure they get an early start so they can have the best chance of clearing the stream in a single push.

    Also Sunday morning, local hunters will run their dogs with some volunteers to flush out pigs and check pig dens beginning at about 8 a.m.

    “Those dogs are on a very different program than the search dogs, so we are insisting that no one be in the forest on the left side of the road (if you’re coming up to base camp) until we give the all-clear.”

    Volunteers were asked not to wander into the area until the hunter-dog teams have completed their search and are out of the area.

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    Makawao Forest Reserve search area. Courtesy photo

    What is needed:

    More volunteers for the search and other tasks.

    Drivers with trucks or SUVs to run groups out and pick them up. It can become a major choke point, especially after 4 p.m., when more groups begin coming back to base camp. Even if you can’t stay all day, Berquist asks these drivers to stop by.

    “It can be hard on the search groups when they’re all ready to go and we can’t find a ride to get them out or pick them up,” Berquist said. “Again, it’s not going to be something that we need often, but when we need it—we need it.”

    More FAA-licensed drone pilots: While they are spending a bit of time in the parking lot on standby… when I needed a drone to go out yesterday, Berquist said, “all I had to do was step out of my tent, ask for a pilot who could hike in. We had footage of an area within an hour that would have taken several hours just to find, rappel and clear.”

    Free divers: Berquist said, “I know I‘m not using you often, but when I need you, there’s no better feeling then knowing your there and ready to go so we can get this done without dragging our feet.”

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    Makawao Forest Reserve search area. Courtesy photo

    What is not needed:

    Dirtbikes and quads are not needed at this time. With the access searchers have been granted to the ranch lands and private pastures, volunteers are only able to use vehicles.

    Pet dogs should be left at home as to not distract or interfere with the working scent dogs.

    “Now that we have working dogs on site, it tends to cause a bit commotion… and we don’t want to interfere with these guys,” said Berquist. “They are an amazing resource and we want to help them in any way that we can. However, if it’s between you staying home or you bringing your pup, please come and we’ll find somewhere to make good use of you and your time.”

    Police Have Established a Hotline and Email for Tips:

    The Maui Police Department has set up a direct number to police for the public to call with any and all tips and information about this investigation.

    Please call (808)244-6421. You may also email to: [email protected]

    Timeline/History:

    The 35-year-old physical therapist and yoga instructor was last seen by her boyfriend, who said Eller was meditating when he left for work at around 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, May 8, 2019.  Surveillance shows Eller mailing a package at the Haʻikū Post Office on Wednesday, May 8, 2019 at approximately 10:19 a.m.

    At approximately 12:12 p.m. on Wednesday, May 8, 2019, Amanda’s Toyota Rav4, license plate number LEZ110 was observed within the gravel parking lot near the “Hunter’s Trail” at the Makawao Forest Reserve by off duty Maui Fire Department personnel, who had gone for a hike.

    On Thursday, May 9, 2019 at about 7:21 a.m., the Maui Police Department was contacted by Amanda’s boyfriend, who reported her missing.  He described several possible locations that Amanda liked to frequent, including the Makawao Forest Reserve.

    The Maui Police Department is asking ANYONE who was at the Makawao Forest Reserve on Wednesday, May 8, to contact police.

    “It was reported that an early 2000’s model, medium blue Dodge Ram full sized pickup truck, which appeared to be a work truck, was observed parked next to Amanda’s vehicle within the Hunter’s Gate parking lot on May 8th at around 12:12 p.m.  It was also reported that a white Toyota van operated by an older male with two dogs was in the area just prior to the time that Amanda’s vehicle was observed.  Also, a couple in their 30s to 40s, who appeared to be tourists, were observed hiking in the area.”

    Police are looking to identify and contact these people for any information they may have.

    *Story by Debra Lordan. Maui Now’s Wendy Osher contributed to this report. 

    Big screen map at search headquarters in Makawao Forest Reserve. PC: Debra Lordan

    On-site updates can now be made 5 minutes after volunteers send their GPS data. PC: Debra Lordan

    Search saturation map, Makawao Forest Reserve, May 18, 2019. Courtesy photo

    Search saturation map, Makawao Forest Reserve, May 18, 2019. Courtesy photo

    Search saturation map, Makawao Forest Reserve, May 18, 2019. Courtesy photo

    Search saturation map, Makawao Forest Reserve, May 18, 2019. Courtesy photo

    Search saturation map, Makawao Forest Reserve, May 18, 2019. Courtesy photo

    Search saturation map, Makawao Forest Reserve, May 18, 2019. Courtesy photo

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

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