CINCINNATI (AP) — The parents of a young Ohioan who was detained in North Korea for more than a year and died soon after being released said Tuesday he was “jerking violently,” howling, and “staring blankly” when he returned home on a medical flight.
Fred and Cindy Warmbier appeared on a morning TV show amid an escalating war of words between the Trump administration and North Korea. A North Korean official has claimed President Donald Trump has, in effect, declared war, which the White House denied.
Otto Warmbier’s father said they wanted to speak out about his condition after hearing North Korea claiming to be a victim that’s being picked on.
“North Korea is not a victim. They’re terrorists,” he said. “They kidnapped Otto. They tortured him. They intentionally injured him. They are not victims.”
The parents described the condition his family found him in when they went aboard an air ambulance that arrived June 13 in Cincinnati. They said Warmbier, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student, was howling, making an “involuntary, inhuman sound,” ″staring blankly into space jerking violently,” and was blind and deaf with his head shaved.
Fred Warmbier said his mouth “looked like someone had taken a pair of pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth.”
Fred Warmbier said Otto’s mother and sister ran off the plane at the initial sight of him.
“We weren’t prepared … no mother, no parent should ever have gone through what we went through,” Cindy Warmbier said. She said it was “inexcusable” that her son had been alone in captivity for so long with no one to comfort him. She said she “got it together” and stayed with him after his arrival.
President Trump tweeted about the family’s appearance, calling it “a great interview” and that: “Otto was tortured beyond belief by North Korea.”
Fred Warmbier also said Otto had a large scar on his right foot and a high fever.
He died less than a week after returning at University of Cincinnati Medical Center. Doctors there said he arrived in a state of “unresponsive wakefulness” and had suffered a “severe neurological injury” of uncertain cause.
North Korea has denied mistreating the youth, sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in March 2016 for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster. He was arrested that January as he prepared to leave the country after visiting as a tourist.