Dave Quinn
June 16, 2017 08:45 AM

Before Otto Warmbier was detained in North Korea for alleged anti-state acts, he was smiling and playing in the snow with members of his tour group.

The 22-year-old University of Virginia student — who was detained over a year ago and was released on Tuesday in a coma after what his family calls “brutalized and terrorized by the pariah regime” — can be seen in a happy state in new video released by his brother, Austin Warmbier, to WCPO Cincinnati.

In the clip, a blue-coat wearing Otto and his travel companions pack snowballs in their bare hands — laughing alongside what appears to be three local children as they throw the snowballs towards the camera, which switches to slow-motion.

“This is the Otto I know and love,” Austin told the news station when he shared video, billed as “the last known gasp of normality and freedom” in Otto’s life. “This is my brother.”

Otto had traveled to North Korea in January 2016 with Young Pioneer Tours, a Chinese company which markets itself as providing “budget travel to destinations your mother would rather you stayed away from.”

He was arrested on Jan. 2 while trying to board a plane out of the country, and sentenced to 15 years of prison and hard labor for allegedly attempting to take a large propaganda sign lauding the regime at his hotel in Pyongyang. 

“I entirely beg you, the people and government of the DPRK, for your forgiveness. Please! I made the worst mistake of my life!” he said in a tearful statement at a press event before his trial.

North Korea released Otto Tuesday on “humanitarian grounds” — telling U.S. officials that Otto contracted botulism and slipped into the coma after taking a sleeping pill.

Otto Warmbier in February 2016
Kim Kwang Hyon/AP

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Doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center have little information about what happened to him prior to his release as they’ve had no contact with North Korean medical authorities, but said Otto shows no current signs of botulism.

In a press conference Thursday, Dr. Daniel Kanter, professor of neurology and director of the Neurocritical Care Program, said Otto has “severe injury to all regions of the brain” and described his current condition as “unresponsive wakefulness.”

After examining scans and tests, the specialists suspect he suffered from cardiopulmonary arrest, which means for some period of time he lost oxygen to his brain. They don’t suspect he suffered from a direct traumatic brain injury.

The doctors added they attempted to interact with Otto, but he had no consistent response. In their evaluation, they don’t feel at this time that he has any conscious awareness as he shows no signs of understanding verbal language and no purposeful movement.

Fred Warmbier
Bill Pugliano/Getty

Otto’s father, Fred Warmbier, said there’s “no excuse” for North Korea’s treatment of his son on Thursday, adding that he fell to his knees and hugged him when he was carried off a plane on Tuesday night.

“We’ve been brutalized over the last 18 months with misinformation, no information,” he said. “We are proud of the fact that our family is basically happy, positive people and we’re going to stay that way and we’re thrilled our son is on American soil.”

“Otto, I love you and I’m so crazy about you, I’m so glad you’re home, you are such a great guy,” he continued. “My family has been rock solid throughout this, we have supported one another.”

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