Otto Warmbier, an American student who was released from North Korea in a coma last week after being detained in the country for almost a year and a half, died just days after his return to the United States.
Warmbier died Monday afternoon, his parents said in a statement, the Washington Post reported.
North Korean state-run media said last year that Warmbier, who was a student at the University of Virginia, was arrested for what they called as “a hostile act” against the Kim Jong Un regime. He was arrested and then sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor. The “hostile act” Warmbier allegedly committed was attempting to remove a propaganda banner from his hotel.
According to multiple reports, Warmbier fell into a coma in March 2016, the same month he was sentenced.
In a statement provided to the Post, Warmbier’s parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, said, “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.”
The statement continued:
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,” they said. “We are at peace and at home too.”
North Korea’s communist regime abruptly released Warmbier last week.