Fox News is reporting that Otto Warmbier, who was held prisoner in North Korea for 17 months before coming home last week, has died.
The announcement was made by his family.
“It is our sad duty to report that our son, Otto Warmbier, has completed his journey home,” the statement said. “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, 22, was in a state of what his doctors called “unresponsive wakefulness,” and had suffered significant brain damage during his imprisonment.
The North Korean government said botulism is to blame for Warmbier’s condition, but doctors did not find any evidence of the illness.
Before his detention made global headlines, Otto Warmbier was just an adventurous college student.
Otto was born to Cindy and Fred Warmbier in Cincinnati — the same city in which he’s now hospitalized.
He excelled in academics, graduating from Wyoming High School in 2013 as his class salutatorian and getting a scholarship to the University of Virginia. There, he studied commerce and economics and was a member of the Theta Chi fraternity.
By all accounts, Warmbier was a planner. Someone who would always prioritize family and schoolwork over socializing.
“If Otto had anything schoolwork-related, job-related, family-related that he needed to do,” Otto’s friend Ned Ende told the Washington Post, “there was absolutely nothing you could say to him to convince him to do stuff with you.”
But instead of graduating in May with the rest of his class, Warmbier was still in North Korea.
It wasn’t a part of the plan.
In the spring of 2016, Warmbier signed up for a trip to North Korea with the Young Pioneer Tours travel group, a company that takes participants to places they wouldn’t normally go.
“Otto was just a really great lad,” Danny Gratton, Otto’s roomate on the trip, told the Washington Post.
“I got to know Otto really, really well. He was such a mature lad for his age.”
In pictures and videos from his time in North Korea, Warmbier can be seen smiling and enjoying himself.
One image taken during the trip shows Warmbier throwing a snowball and laughing.
“This is the Otto I know and love,” Warmbier’s brother Austin told CNN affiliate WCPO. “This is my brother.”
In total, the trip was supposed to last five days. Warmbier had plans to visit Beijing, China, after he left North Korea.
But as he tried to depart from Pyongyang’s airport, he was stopped in security.
According to the North Korean government, Warmbier was detained because he had sneaked onto a restricted floor of his hotel and had stolen a political poster.
The next time the world saw Warmbier he was distraught, breaking down in front of Korean journalists in a video released by North Korea in February of 2016. He admitted to the crime and begged for forgiveness and for his release. It’s not known whether his confession was voluntary.
For his alleged crime, Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. In the end, he spent 17 months in North Korea before being released. He was taken by a medical aircraft to the US.