Missing Hawaiian Hiker Found Dead 5 Days After Yoga Teacher Located Alive: 'He Is Our Sunshine'
A Hawaiian hiker has been found dead nine days after he went missing, his family announced on Facebook Wednesday.
The discovery of Noah “Kekai” Mina’s body comes just five days after another hiker, Amanda Eller, was found alive after being lost in the Hawaiian forest for 17 days.
“We are so very sorry that Kekai has passed from this realm, he meant the world to us as a son, brother and friend,” Mina’s family, including his father Vincent, his mother Irene and his sister Kahanulani, said in a statement on Facebook Wednesday.
“We find solace that he was found, and ask 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,” their statement continued. “We are so fortunate to have had the time here physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, with him. Those that know Kekai understand what we’re talking about. He made a profound difference in ours and many other’s lives. He is our sunshine.”
“We want to thank everyone from the depths of our hearts and souls, that have been here to support us, while praying to bring him home. We appreciate you and can’t thank you enough. Mahalo nui loa pumehana to one and all.”
The statement included a video of Keahi Bustamente, a conservation biologist and geologist from the Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources, who was part of the search team that found the 35-year-old in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Bustamente, with Ho’okahi Alves and Hank Oppenheimer, spotted Mina 300 feet below a fall line in the summit region of Mauna Kahalawai during a helicopter mission around 5 a.m., he said in the video.
The Mina family did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
The family had previously set up a Go Fund Me campaign to help with the costs of search and rescue. The campaign has currently raised more than $60,000.
His family had been keeping their hopes high for finding Mina alive.
“We see him coming home. I have not lost, at all, any hope of faith that he’s not coming home. One way or the other, we’re going to bring him home,” his father said in a previous statement to local news station KHON2 on Monday.
Mina’s father also said that his son had been dealing with illness prior to his hike.
“He had a high fever a few months ago that led to a psychosis and his kidneys were starting to be challenged along after that high fever. With that, he was having a difficult time re-orienting himself to the reality of what he knows to be true,” he said.
“He told me that he was hiking up at the ridge, and he wanted to see clarity,” Vincent said, adding that he had not heard from his son since. Authorities found what they believed to be Mina’s slippers about 2,500 feet up the Kapilau Ridge, three miles from Mina’s home.
“We were concerned about taking a path like that and I don’t know what he took with him,” Vincent previously said. “I was just focused on getting up to where he was and… [being] with him. I’m his dad, you know?”
Some of those searching for Mina were also involved in the rescue of yoga teacher Eller, who was found last Friday, suffered a broken leg, severe sunburns and other injuries.
At a hospital press conference after Eller was found, her mother, Julia, explained that what had been intended as a three-mile hike in the Makawao Forest Reserve went awry after Eller laid down for a nap part way through her journey. When she woke up, she mistakenly began walking in the opposite direction of her car. She did not have a phone or compass with her.
“Everything [in the forest] looks the same,” Julia said. “It would be very easy to get misguided.”
The yoga instructor and physical therapist was discharged from the hospital on Sunday.