Otto Warmbier with North Korean officials in 2016 (Photo courtesy WWBT)
Otto Warmbier (Provided)
CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) -
Otto Warmbier, the Ohio native recently released from North Korean detention, has died, his family announced Monday.
The 22-year-old returned from the totalitarian nation Tuesday with severe brain damage.
"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," read the statement released by University of Cincinnati Medical Center Hospital on behalf of his family.
Doctors at UC hospital did not know what caused Warmbier’s brain damage. Dr. Daniel Kanter, director of neurocritical care, said he did not show signs of understanding language nor responded to verbal commands.
The family went 15 months without hearing a word from their son or any updates on Warmbier's condition.
Statement from the family:
It is our sad duty to report that our son, Otto Warmbier, has completed his journey home. Surrounded by his loving family, Otto died today at 2:20pm.
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.
Warmbier, who studied finance, was arrested in North Korea after trying to steal a propaganda poster. He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in 2016.
His condition quickly deteriorated. The North Koreans claim he contracted botulism and fell into a coma after taking a sleeping pill. His doctors at the University of Cincinnati say there's no evidence that is true. However, he showed no signs of physical trauma.
Right now there are no answers on what happened to Warmbier during his detention in North Korea.
"Otto's fate deepens my administration's determination to prevent such tragedies from befalling innocent people at the hands of regimes that do not respect the rule of law or basic human decency," President Donald Trump said in a written statement.
North Korea's state run media says Warmbier was released for "humanitarian reasons."
"Under a decision by the DPRK Central Court of June 13, American citizen Otto Warmbier who was serving a sentence of labor was returned on June 13 on humanitarian grounds," The North's KCNA news stations said as reported by Reuters.
The student's release came amid escalating tensions between the United States and North Korea, which has ramped up its ballistic missile tests in its pursuit of a nuclear weapon it threatens to use in combat.