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Friends search for yoga instructor who vanished in a rugged Maui forest

Amanda Eller, 35, a yoga instructor, vanished Wednesday on a visit to the rugged Makawao Forest Reserve on Maui. Friends hope she was injured in a fall or other off-trail accident, but worry about foul play.
Amanda Eller, 35, a yoga instructor, vanished Wednesday on a visit to the rugged Makawao Forest Reserve on Maui. Friends hope she was injured in a fall or other off-trail accident, but worry about foul play. Screengrab from KITV video

Update: Amanda Eller, 35, was found Friday after a 17-day search at the Makawao Forest Reserve on Maui, CNN reported. She had become stranded after injuring her leg.

Friends of a Maui yoga instructor and physical therapist who hasn’t been seen since a Wednesday trip to a rugged forest are holding out hope, KITV reported.

But friend Sarah Haynes says their fears grow each day that Amanda Eller, 35, remains missing while volunteers and police comb the Makawao Forest Reserve, The Maui News reported.

“Generally speaking, it’s highly likely she’s lost or injured in this forest, and it’s equally as likely that she was intercepted by someone in the parking lot or on her run,” Haynes said, according to the publication. “As the days go by, and more and more people are in the forest, we get closer and closer to foul play.”

Eller’s white Toyota RAV4 was found in the reserve’s parking lot on Thursday with her wallet and cell phone inside, which friends call unsurprising, KHON reported.

“It is common for Amanda to want to unplug,” Haynes said, KITV reported. “She believes in dropping her cell phone and going on her day.”

Hundreds of searchers, including rescue crews as well as Eller’s yoga students and friends, have searched the reserve with drones and dogs for the past three days, The Maui News reported. Her family has posted a $10,000 reward.

“At this point, we do not believe she’s going to be found on a simple trail,” Haynes said, KITV reported. “She may have fallen, or she may have gone off trail to go to the bathroom and may have gotten hurt.”

The main trail through the Makawao Forest Reserve is not treacherous, but offshoots lead to steep drops, deep mud and heavy vegetation, said friend Lucia Maya, ABC News reported.

“I know that she hikes all the time; she’s a water person,” Maya said, according to the network. “She goes on adventures, so the idea that she somehow went missing while on a hike or a run in the Makawao forest is just hard to believe still.”

Haynes told KITV on Friday that Eller was not known to “have any depression, we don’t know any reason that she would disappear on her own” and that she and her boyfriend were a “very happy, loving couple.”

A Facebook page also has been established to publicize the search.

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Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.
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