On Monday, Otto Warmbier died at the Cincinnati hospital where he had been in a coma. Warmbier, who was a student at the University of Virginia, was just 22 years old. He was released from North Korea, where he had been detained for 17 months, just one week prior.

Warmbier's death

Warmbier’s parents said in a statement that upon his return, Warmbier had been mostly unresponsive and seemed anguished, but his demeanor changed after 24 hours at home. They believed that he was aware of his return and was at peace.

Warmbier’s death follows reports that he had suffered extensive brain damage and was unresponsive. He arrived at the University of Cincinnati hospital in what doctors called a “state of unresponsive wakefulness.” After receiving two MRIs from the North Koreans, doctors concluded that Warmbier had sustained a crippling brain injury sometime before April 2016, shortly after his conviction.

While doctors could only guess that Warmbier suffered from cardiac arrest, there is no way to say what caused his initial injury. A senior American official said that Warmbier had suffered brutal beatings, but doctors could find no injuries consistent with physical abuse. The North Koreans said that Warmbier suffered from botulism and then slipped into a coma after taking a sleeping pill. The Cincinnati doctors, however, found no evidence of botulism in their examination of Warmbier.

His parents and the president respond

In their statement, Warmbier’s parents said; “Unfortunately, the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today.” They also stated that they are “at peace and at home too.”

President Trump issued a statement stating; “There is nothing more tragic for a parent than to lose a child in the prime of life." He also stated that his administration will continue to work on cracking down on the oppressive regimes like North Korea and that the US continues to condemn the actions of the regime.

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Relations between the US and North Korea have fallen to new lows. Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s dictator, has threatened to attack the United States with nuclear weapons. More than a dozen Americans have been imprisoned by North Korea over the years, but Warmbier is the first to have been sent home in a coma.

After the release of Warmbier, three more Americans remain imprisoned in North Korea. Two were arrested in the last two months. Tony Kim and Kim Hak-song were accused of “hostile acts” when arrested on April 23 and May 6, respectively. Very little is known about Kim Dong-Chul, the third American, except that he was detained in 2015.