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Otto Warmbier, the US student released by North Korea, dies days after returning home

Otto Warmbier (Twitter)
June 19, 2017

Otto Warmbier, an American college student who was detained in North Korea for 17 months, died Monday afternoon, his family said.

“It is our sad duty to report that our son, Otto Warmbier, has completed his journey home,” his family said in a statement. “Surrounded by his loving family, Otto died today at 2:20 p.m.”

Warmbier had been in a coma for 15 of the 17 months he was detained in North Korea.

Last week, doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center said that Warmbier was “in a state of unresponsive wakefulness,” and had suffered severe brain injury.

Warmbier was medically evacuated from North Korea last week, through the efforts of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the Trump Administration. He arrived in Cincinnati, Ohio, on June 13.

Warmbier was serving a 15-year prison term with hard labor for alleged anti-state acts, according to reports.

Fred and Cindy Warmbier issued a statement following Otto’s death.

“It would be easy at a moment like this to focus on all that we lost – future time that won’t be spent with a warm, engaging, brilliant young man whose curiosity and enthusiasm for life knew no bounds. But we choose to focus on the time we were given to be with this remarkable person. You can tell from the outpouring of emotion from the communities that he touched – Wyoming, Ohio and the University of Virginia to name just two – that the love for Otto went well beyond his immediate family,” the family said in a statement.

The family thanked the University of Cincinnati Medical Center for treating their son.

“We would like to thank the wonderful professionals at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center who did everything they could for Otto. Unfortunately, the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today.”

“When Otto returned to Cincinnati late on June 13 he was unable to speak, unable to see and unable to react to verbal commands. He looked very uncomfortable – almost anguished.  Although we would never hear his voice again, within a day the countenance of his face changed – he was at peace.  He was home and we believe he could sense that.”

“We thank everyone around the world who has kept him and our family in their thoughts and prayers. We are at peace and at home too,” the family added.

Fred Warmbier had said last week that his son was “terrorized and brutalized” at the hands of North Korea.