Otto Warmbier, the 22-year-old U.S. student imprisoned in and recently released by North Korea, “completed his journey” and died at roughly 2:20 local time. His death comes only 6 days after he was released by the leftwing North Korean regime, who had imprisoned him for 17 months.
The Warmbier family released a statement from the hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio.
“It is our sad duty to report that our son, Otto, has completed his journey home,” the Warmbier family said in a statement released from the hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio. “Surrounded by his loving family, Otto died today at 2:20 am.”
Doctors from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center said last week that Warmbier was suffering from injuries related to cardiopulmonary arrest and was in a coma. During the state of unresponsive wakefulness, scans showed extensive loss in all regions of Warmbier’s brain.
Warmbier, a student at the University of Virginia, was serving as 15-year hard labor prison term after he was accused and confessed to “a crime “pursuant to the U.S. government’s hostile policy toward (the North), in a bid to impair the unity of its people after entering it as a tourist.”
In a statement made before his trial, Warmbier was forced to tell reporters in Pyongyang he was offered a used car worth $10,000 if he could get a propaganda banner. He said he was also told that if he was detained and didn’t return, $200,000 would be paid to his mother in the form of a charitable donation.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said “at the direction of the president” his department secured the release of Warmbier. The secretary’s statement insinuated the White House was directly involved in the release, which comes as Dennis Rodman visits Pyongyang.
“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,” the family’s statement continues. “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 statement also thanked “the wonderful professionals at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center who did everything they could for Otto.”
“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.”
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who calls the area home, released a statement after Warmbier’s passing.
“Otto Warmbier was such a promising young man,” Sen. Portman wrote. “He was kind, generous and accomplished. He had all the talent you could ever ask for and a bright future ahead of him.”