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U.S. student freed by North Korea in a coma dies at 22

By The Associated Press

This article was originally published June 19, 2017 at 3:50 p.m. Updated June 19, 2017 at 5:14 p.m.


In this Feb. 29, 2016 file photo, American student Otto Warmbier speaks to reporters in Pyongyang, North Korea. Secretary of State Tillerson said Tuesday, June 13, 2017, that North Korea released the jailed U.S. university student.

CINCINNATI — Otto Warmbier, an American college student who was released by North Korea in a coma last week after almost a year and a half in captivity, died Monday, his family said.

The 22-year-old "has completed his journey home," the family said in a statement.

"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," his parents said.

Doctors had described his condition as a state of "unresponsive wakefulness" and said he suffered a "severe neurological injury" of unknown cause.

His father, Fred Warmbier, said last week that he believed Otto had been fighting for months to stay alive to return to his family. Their statement Monday said he looked uncomfortable and anguished after returning June 13, but his countenance later changed.

"He was peace. He was home, and we believe he could sense that," they said.

Warmbier was convicted of subversion after he tearfully confessed that he had tried to steal a propaganda banner while visiting with a tour group from China. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor in North Korea.

The University of Virginia student was held for more than 17 months. His family said they were told he had been a coma since soon after his March 2016 sentencing.

Doctors said he suffered extensive loss of brain tissue and "profound weakness and contraction" of his muscles, arms and legs. His eyes opened and blinked but without any sign that he understood verbal commands or his surroundings.

North Korea said he went into a coma after contracting botulism and taking a sleeping pill. Doctors in Cincinnati said they found no active sign of botulism or evidence of beatings.

His parents told The Associated Press in a statement the day of his release that they wanted "the world to know how we and our son have been brutalized and terrorized by the pariah regime " and expressed relief he had been returned to "finally be with people who love him."

Fred Warmbier praised his son's "performance" and President Donald Trump's administration. He was critical of the approach to his son's situation taken by former President Barack Obama's administration.

In a White House statement, Trump said, "Lot of bad things happened, but at least we got him home to be with his parents." He called North Korea a "brutal regime."

Read Tuesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.


Comments on: U.S. student freed by North Korea in a coma dies at 22

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Displaying 1 - 6 of 6 total comments

Tigermule says... June 19, 2017 at 4:39 p.m.

He was essentially killed by North Korea

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HenryP says... June 19, 2017 at 4:41 p.m.

Go to defcon one.....

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RBear says... June 19, 2017 at 4:51 p.m.

So sad to hear of his death. Thankfully, he spent those last days with the ones who loved him most. Thoughts and prayers to the family at this time.

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rtw says... June 19, 2017 at 4:53 p.m.

Regardless of why he was "in country" (he shouldn't have been there in the first place), the North Korean government (police) killed him.

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gagewatcher says... June 19, 2017 at 6:38 p.m.

S Sorry for his family. no parent should ever lose a child.

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PopMom says... June 19, 2017 at 8:13 p.m.

So upsetting. He went to my alma mater. He should have graduated this year. So sad.

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