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Maui Hiker Amanda Eller Praises Rescuers Who 'Never Gave Up'

MAUI (CBS/WJZ) -- Still weak from 17 days and 16 nights in the Hawaiian jungle, Amanda Eller arrived at her party with a little help from her family and friends.

"I'm just a little girl that got lost in the woods! And you guys showed up, like, hard!" the Maryland native yelled upon arrival.


They called her rescue a miracle. On Monday, they treated her like a hero.

"I just have so much gratitude and thanks for everybody showing up with the biggest hearts and the biggest generosities," she said.

Those volunteers kept showing up—some climbing, some repelling, some flying drones—even when police called off the search after just three days.

"She just went through this 17-day survivor ordeal and she's looking unbelievable!" said Javier Cantellops, Eller's good friend.

Cantellops last saw her on Friday when he was part of the team that spotted her from the air and then rescued her from a jungle waterfall.

"She's like, 'you never gave up on me.' I was like, I was gonna search for you for the rest of my life!" Cantellops said.

"These guys were not going to give up on me. Thank God!" Eller said at her party.

She said her journey of survival was spiritual. In a press conference Tuesday, Eller said she went into the forest on May 8 for a run and to meditate, leaving behind her cell phone.

She said she got lost when her sense of direction wasn't leading her back to her car.

"I took a break I laid down on a tree I was looking at the sky when I got up I tried to go back the way I came I had a sense of direction at that point. The path was not leading me back to my car and I tried all these different paths and then I was like oh shoot these are not bike paths these are not walking paths these are boars paths," She said.

Instead, the voice led her deeper into the woods. She said she ate berries and plants and drank water from the river. At one point- Eller said she found shelter inside the den of a wild boar.

One of her darkest days was dealing with a flash flood after falling 20 feet and injuring her legs. She said she chose not to be a victim.

"I was sitting in a foot of water on hard rocks that were digging into my skin but I didn't have another choice," Eller said.

When the group of rescuers in a helicopter spotted her, she said she immediately collapsed knowing she was going to survive.

"I see these guys coming over in the helicopter and I just can't tell you, my heart fell through my feet I mean I just collapsed," She said.

She suffered from severe sunburn, a fractured leg and skin infections.

She said her story of survival defines Ohana.

"There's not a word for my gratitude for seeing this in humanity for seeing this drive and this not willing to give up attitude we're going to save you you're another human being you're my tribe, it's incredible," She said.

Eller still has a long road of recovery ahead, her legs are still pretty bandaged and she is not able to walk yet. She said the message she learned from this experience- is to next time bring her cell phone,"

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