20 June 2017

Korea for the day: Otto Warmbier dies, days after returning to the US

Otto Warmbier, the former University of Virginia student who returned home to the US last week after spending more than a year imprisoned in North Korea, has died, his family told WCPO NewsOtto Warmbier has died, the University of Cincinnati Medical Center announced Monday.
Warmbier, 22, died at 2:20 p.m. on Monday, just days after he was released from captivity in North Korea. He was surrounded by family members at the time of his death, hospital officials said.
In a statement released by the hospital, family members said Warmbier had been unable to speak, see, or react to verbal commands since his return to Cincinnati on 13 June 2017.
"He looked very uncomfortable, almost anguished," family members said. "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."
Family members thanked the hospital's staff for the care they provided Warmbier but said " 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."
"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 said. "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 in Wyoming, Ohio, and the University of Virginia , to name just two, that the love for Otto went well beyond his immediate family."
Earlier, doctors treating Warmbier had said he suffered "severe neurological injury" and that he was in a state of "unresponsive wakefulness". North Korean officials had claimed Warmbier contracted botulism and never woke up after taking a sleeping pill. Doctors in Cincinnati said he showed no signs of botulism when he arrived here last week, though they couldn't say exactly what caused the cardiac or respiratory arrest that led to his unresponsive condition.
Warmbier had been sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor in North Korea after officials there said he took a propaganda banner from a hotel in early 2016. His tour group was leaving when authorities detained Warmbier. Other members of the tour group have raised doubts about the theft story given by Korean officials. 
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