• Missing Maui hiker's NC family still searching for her; boyfriend passes polygraph

    By: ABC News


    MAUI - A North Carolina family is in Maui, hoping authorities can find their daughter who hasn't been seen in a week. 

    Family and friends are begging Hawaii's governor to launch the National Guard to search for Amanda Eller after she mysteriously disappeared during a routine hike. Firefighters ended their search after 72 hours.

    Eller's family said her boyfriend, Benjamin Konkal, was the last person to see her before she disappeared. They said he has passed a polygraph test and is helping lead the search. 

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    "I woke up in the middle of the night with a lot of anxiety," Konkal said. "She still wasn't home and again the feelings increasing of something is not right. And then, of course, the next morning was the hardest morning because she still wasn't home and I definitely was like 'OK, now I can start to worry.' And, that's when I immediately called the cops."

    Amanda Eller (Credit: Sarah Haynes, special to ABC News)

    (Amanda Eller)

    Eller, 35, who is a physical therapist who moonlights as a yoga teacher, drove to Makawao to hike the Kahakapao Trail on her day off Wednesday. Eller is a regular hiker and avid outdoorswoman, friends said, but she has not been seen since taking to the trail.

    Surveillance footage released Wednesday showed Eller, in workout gear, going to the Ha'iku Post Office and store that morning, mailing a Mother's Day package and buying water and energy bars.

    "Amanda is one of the most amazing people I know. She's radiantly beautiful -- driven, successful, intelligent, super kind, loving, just overall wants to live the best life she can live," he said.

    (Benjamin Konkol)

    Konkol said he has not been a suspect "since the beginning," but he voluntarily took, and passed, a lie detector test and allowed police to search their home, after which he was cleared.

    He has spent every day searching the woods for Eller, along with Maui Fire and Rescue, the Maui Fire Department and dozens of search-and-rescue teams.

    "As soon as they gave me the go-ahead I went in the woods and I ended up hiking with the cops for awhile and then by myself down some streams, basically until my safety was in jeopardy," Konkol said.

    (Eller's Toyota RAV4)

    The Maui Fire Department found Eller's white Toyota RAV4 at noon last Thursday, with her keys and cellphone inside. Friends said it was not uncommon for her to hike or run the trail without her phone.

    Her boyfriend told police he last saw her Wednesday morning. He is not a suspect, friends said.

    "We don't know her to have any depression; we don't know any reason that she would disappear on her own," her friend Sarah Haynes, who is leading the search effort and created a Facebook page to provide updates, told Honolulu ABC affiliate KITV. "She and her boyfriend are quite close; they're a very happy loving couple."

    Search teams have talked with Eller's parents about what may have happened to their daughter.

    “The speculation is that she deviated off the trail and probably slipped and fell down a ravine of some type,” her father, John Eller said. “She is probably injured and weak at this point, making it very difficult.”

    Amanda’s parents are from Southport, North Carolina.

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    Eller's friend Lucia Maya, who knows her through her work as a physical therapist, said she spoke to Eller last week and she was as happy as she'd ever been.

    "She is just an incredibly delightful, warm, loving, bright person," Maya told ABC News. "I've treasured our time together."

    She called the disappearance "really difficult."

    "I was just so shocked when I saw the news. It was through an email that someone told me that she was missing and I know Amanda to be an incredibly strong -- physically strong as well as emotionally, mentally strong -- person," Maya said. "I know that she hikes all the time; she's a water person. 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."

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    Maya said the main trail is not treacherous, but there are offshoots from the main trail that can be dangerous, including steep drops. The trail can be muddy and is heavily wooded.

    Search and rescue crews and dozens of volunteers have scoured the woods looking for Eller since Thursday.

    "Each minute, each hour, I keep checking for updates and hope that there is some good news," Maya said. "It gets harder and harder with each hour that goes by. It's pretty devastating and I know that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people that are thinking of her, searching for her, and the more the word goes out the better.

    "If she did somehow fall and is injured I just have to believe that she's somehow strong enough physically and mentally that she's able to survive and hold out until the rescuers find her. That's how I'm staying positive."

    Eller is about 5-foot-9 and 145 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes. Anyone with information can contact Maui police at 808-244-6433. The family is offering a $10,000 reward for her safe return.

    "I'm hoping that somebody's going to find her and she's just going to be OK," Maya said.

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