Doctor Disputes North Korea's Story About American's Coma

Otto Warmbier landed in US, was rushed to University of Cincinnati Medical Center
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 14, 2017 1:23 AM CDT
Updated Jun 14, 2017 6:32 AM CDT

(Newser) – Blue and white ribbons lined the street near Otto Warmbier's family home Tuesday night as the American student freed by North Korea arrived back in Cincinnati. The 22-year-old, who is believed to have been in a coma for more than a year, was rushed to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center for urgent treatment after he arrived on a US military flight. A US official confirmed to Fox that Warmbier is a coma, but said he was unable to confirm Pyongyang's claim that he contracted botulism and took a sleeping pill before falling into a coma after his March 2016 trial, in which he was sentenced to 15 years' hard labor for stealing a propaganda banner. The latest:

  • Parents Cindy and Fred boarded the plane when it landed, the Washington Post reports. A few minutes later, Warmbier was carried out on a stretcher by medical personnel. He had a shaved head and a tube in his nose.
  • Well-wishers outside the airport fence held "WELCOME HOME OTTO" signs. In Warmbier's hometown of Wyoming, just outside Cincinnati, residents say they are happy he is free and they are doing their best to support his family. "Everybody feels a sense of relief that he is coming back to the United States," resident Amy Mayer tells the AP. "I think we're very excited yet very prayerful about what is happening because we've heard he is in a coma."

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  • A doctor with the Cincinnati Health Department tells WLWT that it is very unlikely that botulism or sleeping pills caused the coma. "This is not consistent with what botulism causes in terms of symptoms. It may cause paralysis, but a coma means that you are no longer conscious," Dr. Steve Englander says.
  • Department of State spokeswoman Heather Nauert says Warmbier's release has nothing to do with Dennis Rodman's latest trip to North Korea, CBS News reports.
  • Ohio's Sen. Rob Portman released a statement condemning Warmbier's sentence as "unnecessary and appalling." "North Korea should be universally condemned for its abhorrent behavior," he said.
  • Former ambassador and New Mexico governor Bill Richardson said he had spoken with Warmbier's parents, who were only informed of his condition a week ago. "We received a call from Cindy and Fred Warmbier early today to update us on Otto's condition," he said in a statement, per AFP. "In no uncertain terms, North Korea must explain the causes of his coma."
  • White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says Warmbier's release was "a big priority" for President Trump and he worked "very hard and very closely" with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the issue.
(Read more North Korea stories.)

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