VIDEO: Amanda Eller Issues New Statement, Apology
By Wendy Osher
In a nearly seven minute video, missing-then-found hiker Amanda Eller issued a new statement on Friday saying she wants to “clear up some misunderstandings.”
The Facebook video included an apology for being “irresponsible” and “naive” in heading out into the Makawao Forest Reserve without a cell phone, water and “preparatory tools.”
The 35-year-old physical therapist and yoga instructor was missing for 17 days before she was located by a volunteer search crew aboard a helicopter. Eller was found on May 24, 2019, in a deep ravine in Haʻikū about five miles from her starting point when she ventured out on May 8, 2019, from the Hunter’s Trail within the Makawao Forest Reserve.
*Video courtesy Findamanda Facebook page.
Eller had initially addressed the public in a Facebook video from her hospital bed on May 25, the day after she was found. She also talked with attendees of a ‘thank you’ party for volunteers held on the Memorial Day holiday on May 27. She then addressed the public formally in a press conference on May 28th from the Maui Memorial Medical Center where she was getting a checkup for her injuries.
In Friday’s video, Eller said, “I want to go back to the details of what happened at the very beginning of the situation of me being lost in the woods. That day that I decided to go into the Makawao Forest, I had it in my mind that I was going for a three-mile run at which point I had decided that I didn’t want to carry anything with me.”
She then explained how she became disoriented saying, “Soon after starting out on that run, there were a lot of trees down, and so it turned into a hike. About a mile-and-a-half in, halfway into that run/hike, I sat down on a tree and I mediated–which I closed my eyes. I had my eyes closed. I had my eyes open. I’m just listening to nature and just you know, just listening and observing what was happening around me.”
She reiterated her position that “There were not any drugs taken at all.”
“I was not under the influence of anything. Just complete sobriety and clarity,” said Eller in today’s video. “And after meditating, I tried to return to my car and I couldn’t find that path that led me to that spot. I couldn’t find the path that led me back to my car. I spent a couple of hours within that same part of the forest trying to find my way back to my car,” said Eller.
According to her account, Eller said that after a couple of hours, she became “disoriented and frustrated,” and “picked a direction to go that I thought–it was a different direction that I had tried and I felt that that was the direction of my car. So, clearly, it was the wrong way. And I continued to go that way,” she said.
Eller contends that, had she been carrying her cell phone, things would have been different. “So that was my irresponsibility and for that I apologize. That day I never intended to go on any kind of spiritual journey, spiritual experience. It was simply just a hike through the woods. And I had every intention that day to make it back to my car quickly,” she said.
“It was never my intention through any of this to put anybody in harm’s way, to create a rescue effort out of my being lost in the woods,” said Eller.
She went on to apologize for putting anybody in harm’s way. “For any kind of, you know, rescue efforts that people feel were unnecessary. I apologize and I also thank–like every single person that showed up, boots on the ground–to try and help in finding me.”
“Thousands of people, thousands of people were praying for me. I am in such awe and gratitude of all of the people that helped me find my way back to my family. I can never repay that. All I can do is just thank you from the bottom–bottom of my heart,” she said.
“I realize that I was irresponsible–that I should have had my cell phone with me, that I should have had some water with me, some kind of preparatory tools that you bring with you when you go hiking. I’m completely aware of that,” Eller said in today’s video statement.
“My circumstance–this situation–is hopefully making other people very aware of the preparation that they need when they chose to explore Maui in different ways.
“I understand that my comments earlier on about this being a spiritual journey–may have bypassed the details of what really happened and I’d like to clarify that I did at the end of this experience of mine, find the silver lining and the bigger picture as to what was happening; but this was never intentional, and I did not set out that day on a spiritual journey. I set out that day to go on a simple hike through the woods. I should have spent more time in the beginning explaining the logistics of getting lost versus the messages that I tried to pull from the overall experience,” said Eller.
“I was naive and it was irresponsible of me to head out into the woods that day in the way that I did. And, it is again, never my intention to put anybody in harm’s way or to require rescue efforts because of my irresponsibility. So for that, I deeply do apologize to the community,” said Eller.
Upon reflection, she said, she now understands how many people “dropped their lives and what was important to them” to help her and the dangers that they were put in to help find her, saying she is relieved that there were no injuries.
“It was not my right to be so casual about safety,” said Eller.
“All of that being said, I would like to thank the Maui community, all of [the] local communities of Hawaiʻi, and the global community for the support and the love and the kind words that I’ve received to expedite my healing and to allow me to return back to my family and back to my life in some kind of normal way. Thank you for everybody who helped me get home. Thank you for everybody’s prayers. I am in awe in gratitude for all of the love and support that I have received,” said Eller.
Also today, John Eller (Amanda’s father) and Chris Berquist (one of the men who led the volunteer search efforts) announced a “Phase 2 of the Find Amanda effort.” In a statement posted to the Findamanda Facebook page, the group announced a “volunteer initiative to carry forth the technology, practices and lessons learned from the Find Amanda campaign.”
The announcement states that the effort is being spearheaded by Berquist, in conjunction with InSight Mobile Data and is being offered to search organizations in need of a technology boost to improve probability of safe rescue or recovery.
The initiative is being funded by InSight Mobile Data, and a newly formed Foundation, yet to be named, according to the announcement.
“We are approaching this with the expectation that we can develop the initial capabilities and procure the necessary communications and IT equipment through an Eller family seed donation to the foundation and through InSight contributions of labor and software development resources,” according to the announcement. “Once operational, we are hopeful that the foundation will be able to sustain itself through donations,” it said.