Hometown pleased that student back from N. Korea

Published 8:01 am Thursday, June 15, 2017

WYOMING, Ohio — People in the hometown of a college student released by North Korea said they were pleased he was back and expressed hopes Wednesday for his recovery as he remained hospitalized in a coma.

Otto Warmbier landed in Cincinnati late Tuesday and was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where a spokeswoman didn’t provide an update on his condition but said his parents plan a Thursday news conference.

The public appearance will be at Wyoming High School, one of Ohio’s top-rated schools. Warmbier, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student, graduated from there in 2013 as class salutatorian and had played soccer.

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Residents of the northern Cincinnati suburb tied blue-and-white ribbons, the school colors, to trees near the family home. Joy at his release was mixed with concern after his parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, said they were told he had been in the coma for over a year.

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said there should be an investigation into what happened to Warmbier leading to this “tragic situation.”

Richardson, a Democrat, credited the Department of State with securing Warmbier’s return from North Korea without any preconditions but said a forceful response from the U.S. government would be required “if its determined that there was a cover-up and Otto’s condition was not disclosed and he didn’t get proper treatment.”

City councilwoman Jenni McCauley said the tight-knit community was “thrilled” to have Warmbier back.

“Even though they’re saddened by his condition, they’re just glad for the family that he is home,” McCauley said. “For any parent, this is their worst nightmare. … We’re hoping that he will be OK.”

She called him “a fabulous young man” who was known as intelligent, personable and well-liked in school and in the community.