Otto Warmbier’s longtime girlfriend and classmates open up after the American student's death

RICHMOND, VA (WTVR) -- University of Virginia students are grieving the death of classmate and friend, Otto Warmbier. Warmbier died Monday afternoon in his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, days after being released by North Korea in a comatose state.

The 22-year-old student had been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for pulling down a propaganda poster in a hotel while visiting North Korea in January 2016.

Warmbier was held for more than 17 months before he was medically evacuated from North Korea last week. The North Korean government claimed the young man suffered from botulism and had taken a sleeping pill that lead to a coma.

RELATED: Otto Warmbier: A timeline of the student's North Korea imprisonment

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Otto Warmbier: A timeline of the student's North Korea imprisonment
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Otto Warmbier: A timeline of the student's North Korea imprisonment

January 2016: Warmbier is imprisoned in North Korea, charged with stealing an item that had a state propaganda slogan on it.

March 2016: Warmbier is sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea

March 2016 - 2017: The United States advocates for North Korea's allowing Sweden access to Warmbier and three other American citizens, pushing for their release.

January 2017: President Trump is inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States, signaling a seat change in American foreign diplomacy.

February 2017: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson briefs President Trump on the situation surrounding Warmbier's imprisonment in North Korea.Trump directs Tillerson to take all appropriate measures in securing the release of U.S. hostages in North Korea.

May 2017:  The U.S. State Department and North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs hold a meeting in Oslo, Norway, during which they agree to the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang's access to all four detainees. Sweden is later granted these visitation rights, prompting North Korea to request a meeting with the United States.

June 6, 2017 - State Department Special Representative Joseph Yun meets with North Korean ambassador Pak Gil Yon at the United Nations in New York. Yun learns during this meeting that Warmbier has been in a coma for over a year.

June 6-11, 2017: Secretary of State Tillerson instructs Yun to travel to North Korea with the mission of bringing back Warmbier. They travel with a medical team to Pyongyang.

June 12, 2017: Through Yun, the United States is able for the first time to confirm Warmbier's status. The U.S. demands Warmbier be released on humanitarian conditions. North Korea complies.

June 13, 2017: Warmbier is evacuated from North Korea, travels to Ohio where he will reunite with his family.

June 13, 2017: Otto Warmbier arrives home to Cincinnati, Ohio
June 15, 2017: Otto Warmbier's father, Fred, speaks out during a press conference on his son's return home.
June 15, 2017: Doctors give updates on Warmbier's status during a news conference at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.
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Doctors at the University of Cincinnati said before he died, Warmbier was in a state of "unresponsive wakefulness," but could not understand language, walk or talk. They also said he had lost much of his brain tissue due to Cardiopulmonary Arrest.

UVa. student and CBS 6 intern, Caroline Coleburn, knew Warmbier from frequent social gatherings between her sorority and his fraternity at the university. She recalled his passion for life.

"He kind of embodied everything that any boy would want to be. He was smart, outgoing, fun, friendly, and I think anyone who knew him, especially those who knew him better than me, would agree with that," Coleburn said.

Warmbier was also the longtime boyfriend of Coleburn's close friend, Alex Vagonis.

"She told me today that she wanted everyone to know he was someone who loved life, who wanted to be a friend to everyone. He was someone who never wanted to stop his education. He was always curious to learn more," explained Coleburn.

SEE ALSO: Medical experts reveal what could have killed Otto Warmbier

It was that curiosity, Coleburn said, that motivated Warmbier to learn more about the culture of North Korea. The outgoing student was an Echols scholar at the University and traveled to the country with a Chinese-based group called the Young Pioneers Tours.

Warmbier would have graduated this past spring. His classmates wore stickers on their graduation caps that read, #FREEOTTO, in his absence.

While friends said they always felt his loss so many miles away, they never imagined his death would be the outcome.

RELATED: Reactions to the death of Otto Warmbier

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Reaction to the death of Otto Warmbier
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Reaction to the death of Otto Warmbier
.@POTUS and @FLOTUS Offer Their Deepest Condolences, Thoughts and Prayers to the Family and Friends of Otto Warmbie… https://t.co/JEoOCx9El7
Karen & I are so saddened to hear this. We're praying for Otto's family tonight. A tragic example of North Korea's… https://t.co/kvgYAZM2mV
Otto Warmbier should never have been in jail for tearing down a stupid banner. And he most certainly should not have been murdered for it.
Secretary Tillerson: We hold #NorthKorea accountable for Otto Warmbier’s unjust imprisonment. https://t.co/MwHNCuUjyw
Saddened by death of Otto Warmbier, tortured & murdered by #NorthKorea - US should not tolerate such hostile action https://t.co/91GnTgSh1h
Gov. John Kasich on the passing of Otto Warmbier: More details: https://t.co/O58kfBhR8T https://t.co/X63cBvjiLx
This is incredibly sad. https://t.co/YLdjZRQlT5
Just learned that Otto Warmbier, the young man held captive by savage N Korea has died. Heartbroken for his parents. Prayers for the family.
We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Otto Warmbier, a remarkable young Ohioan: https://t.co/qSGnPcJQra
My thoughts and prayers are with Otto, his parents, and the entire Warmbier family. https://t.co/z1b6EbgDoX
Very sad to learn of the passing of Otto Warmbier. As a parent, I can't imagine what his parents have had to go through.
Otto Warmbier, the US student held prisoner and severely mistreated in North Korea for 17 months has died. #RIP #NeverForget
My heart goes out to the loved ones of Otto Warmbier. Thinking of Otto's family & friends, & wishing them strength during this tragic time.
My full statement on the passing of Otto Warmbier: https://t.co/KT538qw6tb
Ambassador @nikkihaley on the passing of Otto Warmbier: "Our prayers are with this fine young man’s family and comm… https://t.co/pHBSlYiKfU
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"They say bad things happen to good people... I think that's what happened with Otto," said Coleburn.Warmbier's family released a statement, saying "Unfortunately, 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 Donald Trump also commented on Warmbier's passing earlier today at the White House stating, "At least we got him home to be with his family. They were so happy to see him. Brutal regime."

At least three Americans and one Canadian are currently being held in North Korea. Former US politician and diplomat Bill Richardson offered last week to visit North Korea to secure their release.

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