Otto Warmbier, the U.S. college student who was detained in North Korea for more than 17 months before coming back home to Ohio last week, has died, his family said Monday.
The 22-year-old former University of Virginia student was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for stealing a propaganda poster in North Korea.
Warmbier was reportedly in a coma for over a year after contracting botulism and took a sleeping pill, but American doctors found no evidence to support those claims after examining him.
His condition was “best described as unresponsive wakefulness” Daniel Kanter, head of the neurocritical care program at University of Cincinnati Health, told reporters at a news conference last Thursday.
Warmbier was able to open and blink his eyes, but appeared not to understand language or verbal commands. His brain also seemed to have lost an large amount of tissue.
“It is our sad duty to rpeort that our son, Otto Warmbier, has completed his journey home. Surrounded by his loving family, Otto died today at 2:20 p.m.,” his family said in a statement.
#BREAKING: Family says Otto Warmbier, Ohio native held in North Korea, died at 2:20 p.m. today. #OttoWarmbier
— WCPO (@WCPO) June 19, 2017
Fred and Cindy Warmbier told WCPO:
“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.”
The family’s statement continues:
“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.
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 13th 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.
Fred & Cindy Warmbier and Family”