Otto Warmbier was detained in North Korea for more than 15 months.
The coroner said only an external exam was performed on Otto Warmbier, who arrived home in a coma.
North Korea claims Otto Warmbier’s coma was due to botulism and a sleeping pill, but his family and doctors disagree.
Otto Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor in March 2016 after being tried for attempting to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel.
The coroner’s office in Cincinnati, Ohio, said in a statement: “No conclusions about the cause and manner of Mr. Warmbier’s death have been drawn at this time as there are additional medical records and imaging to review and people to interview.
“Our deepest sympathies are with the family and friends of Mr. Warmbier at this time of their tragic loss.”
Doctors at the Cincinnati Medical Center, where Otto Warmbier was treated following his return to the US on June 13, determined he suffered from “unresponsive wakefulness”, also known as persistent vegetative state, due to “severe neurological injury”.
However, it remains unclear exactly what happened to the student while in North Korea detention. His family and doctors dispute North Korea’s version of events.
A funeral is to take place on June 21 at a high school in Wyoming, Ohio, that Otto Warmbier attended before enrolling at the University of Virginia.
“All those that wish to join his family in celebrating his life are cordially invited,” the announcement states.
Fred and Cindy Warmbier wrote: “When Otto returned to Cincinnati late on June 13, 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.”
They also 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.”
President Trump said that a “lot of bad things happened” to Otto Warmbier, but added: “At least we got him home to be with his parents, where they were so happy to see him, even though he was in very tough condition.”
The president said Otto Warmbier’s death had deepened his administration’s resolve “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”.
“The United States once again condemns the brutality of the North Korean regime as we mourn its latest victim.”
The company Otto Warmbier traveled with, Chinese company Young Pioneer Tours, has announced it will no longer take visitors from the US to North Korea.
However, a team of doctors assessing Otto Warmbier in Cincinnati said they had found “no sign of botulism”.
Otto Warmbier had suffered a “severe neurological injury” of unknown cause, the doctors said, leading to an extensive loss of brain tissue.
He could open his eyes but showed no sign of response to communication.
Doctors said the most likely cause, given Otto Warmbier’s young age, was cardiopulmonary arrest that had cut the blood supply to the brain.
It is not known when Otto Warmbier had fallen into his coma and there is a suspicion it was quite recently, as the US was only told at the beginning of this month about his health situation.
The North Koreans may have realized there was the possibility of an American citizen dying on their hands.
Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who has helped free other Americans in North Korea, said he had met North Korean envoys 20 times during Otto Warmbier’s incarceration and on no occasion was his health mentioned.
Bill Richardson called for the release of the three US citizens still held in North Korea:
Kim Dong-chul, a 62-year-old naturalized US citizen born in South Korea, who was sentenced to ten years hard labor in April 2016 for spying;
Korean-American professor Kim Sang-duk (known as Tony Kim), who was detained in April 2017. The reasons for his arrest are not yet clear;
Kim Hak-song, like Kim Sang-duk, worked at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) and was detained in May 2017 on suspicion of “hostile acts” against the state.
President Donald Trump was criticized in May when he said he would be “honored” to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the “appropriate” time.
Otto Warmbier is now being treated at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center after the flight carrying him landed in Ohio on June 13.
He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for attempting to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel.
Otto Warmbier was given a sleeping pill after becoming ill after his trial in 2016 and did not wake up, North Korea said.
His parents, Fred and Cindy, said: “We want the world to know how we and our son have been brutalized and terrorized by the pariah regime.”
Former US ambassador and New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, who has previously served as special envoy to North Korea and in 2016 attempted to negotiate Otto Warmbier’s release, said the student’s family had updated him on their son’s condition.
“In no uncertain terms, North Korea must explain the causes of his coma,” Bill Richardson said.
If Otto Warmbier’s illness is the direct result of brutality in prison, there might be pressure on President Trump to take action against Kim Jong-un’s regime.
Otto Warmbier is an economics student from the University of Virginia, originally from Cincinnati, Ohio.
Otto Warmbier appeared emotional at a news conference a month later, in which he tearfully confessed to trying to take the sign as a “trophy” for a US church, adding: “The aim of my task was to harm the motivation and work ethic of the Korean people.”
Foreign detainees in North Korea have previously recanted confessions, saying they were made under pressure.
In a statement on June 13, Otto Warmbier’s parents said: “Sadly, he is in a coma and we have been told he has been in that condition since March 2016. We learned of this only one week ago.”
They were quoted by the Washington Post as saying they had been told Otto Warmbier had contracted botulism, a rare illness that causes paralysis, soon after his trial in March 2016.
Otto Warmbier was given a sleeping pill and had been in a coma ever since, the newspaper said.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made no mention of Otto Warmbier’s condition in a statement, saying only that he was on his way home to be reunited with his family and would not make any further comment, out of respect for the privacy of the family.
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