Otto Warmbier funeral: 2,500 celebrate life of North Korea detainee

Otto Warmbier (Via CNN)

(CNN) — The Ohio hometown of Otto Warmbier, who died last week after his return from 17 months in detention in North Korea, gathered at the 22-year-old’s alma mater Thursday to bid him farewell.

Hundreds of well-wishers waited in two lines outside Wyoming High School’s arts center at least an hour before his funeral was set to begin at 9 a.m. ET in the Cincinnati suburb. The auditorium has an overflow capacity of 800 people, and there is room for several hundred more in other areas of the school.

Among the expected speakers are Warmbier’s brother, Austin, his sister, Greta, and some of his friends, according to the funeral program. Also expected to attend is US Ambassador Joseph Yun, the special representative for North Korea policy, who helped secure Warmbier’s release.

(Credit: Carolyn Sung/CNN)

The front of the funeral program featured a quote from Warmbier’s 2013 salutatorian speech: “This is our season finale. This is the end of one great show, but just the beginning to hundreds of new spinoffs.”

Warmbier returned to the United States last week in a coma, only to die six days after his arrival. North Korea officials say Warmbier contracted botulism and slipped into a coma after taking a sleeping pill.

His official cause of death is unknown, as his parents declined to have an autopsy conducted on their son.

“It would be easy at a moment like this to focus on all that we lost — future time that won’t be spent with a warm, engaging, brilliant young man whose curiosity and enthusiasm for life knew no bounds,” Fred and Cindy Warmbier said in a statement.

“We choose to focus on the time we were given to be with this remarkable person. You can tell from the outpouring of emotion from the communities that he touched — Wyoming, Ohio, and the University of Virginia to name just two — that the love for Otto went well beyond his immediate family.”

 

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