The body of a missing hiker in Hawaii was found just days after the miraculous rescue of another hiker lost in a Hawaiian forest.
A helicopter rescue team spotted the body of Noah “Kekai” Mina in the early hours Wednesday morning about 300 feet below the summit of Mauna Kahalawai, a volcano also known as West Maui Mountains. The same helicopter company that found Mina was also involved in the search for Amanda Eller, who was found after she’d been missing for 16 days.
But the search for 35-year-old Mina ended differently.
“We brought our son, brother and friend home today, just not the way we would have wanted and prayed for,” Mina’s father Vincent wrote in a post on Facebook.
“We are so very sorry that Kekai has passed from this realm, he meant the world to us as a son, brother and friend,” his family said in a statement on a page dedicated to search updates. “We find solace that he was found.”
Keahi Bustamente, who was part of the team that spotted Mina, described discovering him as the sun rose around the volcano.
“We descended the fall line in the helicopter and about 300 feet down, the sun was perfectly lighting the area, there was a second when the rotor wash blew open [what was] camouflaging his body,” Bustamente, a conservation biologist and geologist with the Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources, said in a posted video statement. “The light reflected from his skin. We were able to confirm it was Kekai.”
The search for Eller, a 35-year-old physical therapist and yoga instructor who headed into a Maui forest earlier this month, ended Friday. What was meant to be a short hike turned into more than two weeks in the Makawao Forest Reserve, and she was found after surviving on plants and water and even finding shelter one night in a wild boar’s den.
At a news conference on Tuesday, she said she hoped for a safe rescue for Mina.
“My heart reaches out to his family, and my heart reaches out to him,” she said. “This is a perfect opportunity, if it’s okay, to say I would love to say a prayer for him and I would love to send that out through these microphones and I hope that everybody else can sit with me in their hearts and say that prayer . . . that we can all get him back home.”
Mina’s family called on “all those that extended their hearts and love to Kekai and to us, that you pause, and take a moment to love and hold those that are dear to you a moment longer than you would normally do.”