Two Weeks Missing: ‘We are Nowhere Close to Stopping’ the Search for Amanda Eller

May 22, 2019, 12:17 PM HST · Updated May 22, 2:31 PM
Debra Lordan · 14 Comments
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By Debra Lordan

May 21, 2019, Amanda Eller search map. PC: Debra Lordan

MAKAWAO, Maui–Dr. Amanda Eller, a Maui physical therapist and yoga instructor, has been missing for two weeks as of today, Wednesday, May 22. 2019.

Hundreds of volunteers have expended close to 5,000 man-hours of time searching for her in the Makawao Forest Reserve area, but as of the morning of May 22, no signs have been uncovered that have led to Eller’s rescue.

However, volunteer search team enthusiasm and energy remain positive, with a solid plan in place to keep moving forward until she is found.

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“We had a nice up-turn in energy in the camp today,” Team leader Chris Berquist said of the search on Tuesday, May 21, when over 50 hikers of varied skill levels arrived to help.

Tuesday’s volunteers “chased down” a few tips around the area and covered more blank spots in the immediate saturation area. The second search dog team from Kaua‘i worked south from the Olinda gate and then headed west down to Haleakalā Highway.

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“We sent a strong team with ropes into another area that had some tough terrain, but the possibility of water,” said Berquist.

Team leader Chris Berquist with his trusty flip phone—amid sophisticated search technology, May 21, 2019. PC: Debra Lordan

In addition to local search-and-rescue resources, including canine teams, and multiple agencies, the Maui search volunteers are consulting with a West Coast company that is helping to prioritize search areas based on terrain, past search statistics, what is known about Eller, the likelihood of where she might be based on what is known about her previous hikes in the area and what Berquist calls “travelability data.”

The search is based on facts, he said, leaving out emotional aspects, and social media criticism and conjecture.

“We are here to search for a missing girl in a known area,” said Berquist, adding that the volunteers are leaving the investigative work to the Maui Police Department. “We’re not here solve a crime, draw any conclusions or work off any hypothesis at this point. We’re just trying to work off the facts and do the best search possible.”

“We are working in a radius from the parking area where Amanda’s car was found, then extending out into the trail systems,” said Berquist. “There is no reason to move on from this plan until we have thoroughly cleared this area.”

However, Berquist said, they are still open to any and all tips and relevant information, and ideas based on sound facts and reasoning. (See contact information below.) Like everything else related to the search, all tip data is documented on spreadsheets.

“Although we still have a strong volunteer group showing up every day, we still absolutely still need more help out there—now more than ever,” Berquist said. “We’re pushing further out and continuing to check all reasonable areas where Amanda could be based on the facts that we have.”

“We are nowhere close to stopping by any means… we have so much more we can do out here and we’ll continue to push it,” said Berquist.

Now that the area is becoming thoroughly saturated with GPS search data, Berquist said the base camp may move in the next few days in order to more efficiently expand. Larger searches will also be organized for the weekend, when more volunteers will be available.

“We are still not going to jump out to random areas that we don’t have any data to support,” Berquist stressed. “Everybody, including the West Coast consultants, have been very supportive of our methods so far.”

Berquist reiterated that he has been in communication with other search-and-rescue operations across the country who have reported finding missing people of all ages weeks after they went missing, alive and relatively well, in terrain similar to Upcountry Maui—places with “far more predators, much colder temperatures and much scarier nights.” They find people dehydrated, confused and worn down, but alive and well.

“I hope you understand the peace of mind you’re helping bring to the family and the community to guarantee everything that can be done is being done—you as a community are helping do it,” Berquist wrote in his late-night update.

Plan for Wednesday, May 21:

Berquist plans to supply grid points and pin drops to everyone who can help continue the search for Eller.

Team leader Chris Bergquist and Jackson (L) take a break with search leaders Elena Pray and Javier Cantellops. PC: Susann Schuh

What is needed:

Video footage of the immediate area is needed for data mining by volunteers and the Maui Police Department. (See contact information below.)

Volunteer searchers of all levels, especially strong hikers who know the area and who have good endurance to go “longer and stronger” for a six to eight-hour trek.

Drivers: Drivers are needed to stand by to pick up tired hikers throughout the day and at the end of the day.

Volunteer administrators to help with registration, logistics and computer work

Volunteers flier distributors for other areas of Maui.

Food, water, ice: Donations are still needed to sustain search volunteers.

History/Background

During a press conference, organized by volunteers on Sunday, May 12, 2019, Eller’s boyfriend said he was the last person to see Eller, and that she was meditating when he left for work at around 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, May 8, 2019.

Maui police say surveillance shows the 35-year-old physical therapist and yoga instructor mailing a package at the Haʻikū Post Office on the day she went missing at approximately 10:19 a.m.

At approximately 12:12 p.m. on Wednesday, May 8, 2019, police say 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

Amanda Eller. PC: Sarah Haynes / Findamanda Facebook page.

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 Eller’s live-in boyfriend who reported Eller missing and described several possible locations that Amanda liked to frequent, including the Makawao Forest Reserve, according to police.

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

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. The telephone hotline is (808) 244-6421, or tips may also be emailed to police at [email protected].

*Story 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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