Parents of Otto Warmbier recall son's torture by North Korea

The parents of Otto Warmbier recalled the optimism they felt when they learned he was being released from a prison in North Korea during their first interview, three months after their son’s death.

Fred and Cindy Warmbier told Fox and Friends they knew their son was in a coma, but hoped medical care in the United States would be enough to save Otto. As soon as they boarded the plane that carried him back to the United States however, they were met with “howling, this involuntary, inhuman sound.”

At that point, both Otto’s mother and younger sister ran from the plane.

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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“Otto had a shaved head, he had a feeding tube coming out of his nose, he was staring blankly into space, jerking violently,” Fred told the news station. “He was blind. He was deaf. As we looked at him and tried to comfort him, it looked like someone had taken a pair of pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth.”

The 22-year-old’s fever spiked to 104 degrees and he died June 19 at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center — days after he was returned home from a prison in North Korea.

“To see how he came home was almost too much for us,” Cindy told Fox. “I almost passed out, but I got it together and I rode in the ambulance with him because I did not want him to be alone anymore.”

He was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment with hard labor after being convicted of trying to steal a propaganda poster from his hotel. In June, Rex Tillerson announced that North Korea released Otto, who told American officials that he’d contracted botulism and then fell into a coma after taking a sleeping pill.

Medical officials in the U.S. said scans showed extensive loss of brain tissue, consistent with cardiac arrest that deprived the brain of oxygen.

They’re still unsure what prompted the cardiac arrest, but did not see any evidence of botulism.

The Warmbiers explained that they’d hoped to stay out of the spotlight and heal, “but now we see North Korea claiming to be a victim, and that the world is picking on them,” Fred explained.

“We’re here to tell you North Korea is not a victim, they’re terrorists, they kidnapped Otto, they tortured him, they intentionally injured him.”

Shortly after the interview, President Trump tweeted out his approval.

“Great interview on [Fox and Friends with the parents of Otto Warmbier: 1994-2017” he wrote Tuesday morning. “Otto was tortured beyond belief by North Korea.”

RELATED: Warmbiers gather to remember their son

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Mourners gather to remember Otto Warmbier
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Mourners gather to remember Otto Warmbier
Mourners stand out side the art center before a funeral service for Otto Warmbier, who died after his release from North Korea, at Wyoming High School in Wyoming, Ohio, U.S. June 22, 2017. REUTERS/John Sommers II
Mourners wait in line outside the art center before a funeral service for Otto Warmbier, who died after his release from North Korea, at Wyoming High School in Wyoming, Ohio, U.S. June 22, 2017. REUTERS/John Sommers II
WYOMING, OH-JUNE 21: The town of Wyoming, Ohio prepares for the funeral of Otto Warmbier June 21, 2017 in Wyoming, Ohio. The 22-year-old college student was released from a North Korean prison last Tuesday in a coma after spending 17 months in captivity for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, addresses the media outside the art center before a funeral service for Otto Warmbier, who died after his release from North Korea, at Wyoming High School in Wyoming, Ohio, U.S. June 22, 2017. REUTERS/John Sommers II
WYOMING, OH-JUNE 21: Blue and white ribbons are shown at the entrance to Oak Hill Cemetary the day before the funeral of Otto Warmbier June 21, 2017 in Wyoming, Ohio. The 22-year-old college student was released from a North Korean prison last Tuesday in a coma after spending 17 months in captivity for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
Mourners stand outside the art center before a funeral service for Otto Warmbier, who died after his release from North Korea, at Wyoming High School in Wyoming, Ohio, U.S. June 22, 2017. REUTERS/John Sommers II
Mourners wait in line outside the art center before a funeral service for Otto Warmbier, who died after his release from North Korea, at Wyoming High School in Wyoming, Ohio, U.S. June 22, 2017. REUTERS/John Sommers II
Mourners stand out side the art center before a funeral service for Otto Warmbier, who died after his release from North Korea, at Wyoming High School in Wyoming, Ohio, U.S. June 22, 2017. REUTERS/John Sommers II
WYOMING, OH-JUNE 21: A man brings balloons into Wyoming High School, site of tomorrow's funeral for Otto Warmbier June 21, 2017 in Wyoming, Ohio. The 22-year-old college student was released from a North Korean prison last Tuesday in a coma after spending 17 months in captivity for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
Mourners stand out side the art center before a funeral service for Otto Warmbier, who died after his release from North Korea, at Wyoming High School in Wyoming, Ohio, U.S. June 22, 2017. REUTERS/John Sommers II
WYOMING, OH-JUNE 21: The town of Wyoming, Ohio prepares for the funeral of Otto Warmbier June 21, 2017 in Wyoming, Ohio. The 22-year-old college student was released from a North Korean prison last Tuesday in a coma after spending 17 months in captivity for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
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