NEWS

Hundreds Gather To Mourn Otto Warmbier At His Former High School

22/06/2017 11:58 PM AEST | Updated 23/06/2017 1:12 AM AEST

An overflow crowd gathered at a high school in Wyoming, Ohio, Thursday morning to mourn for Otto Warmbier, the 22-year-old American student who died earlier this week after being released from a North Korean prison.

Friends, family and community members began lining up for his funeral service early as 7 a.m. outside Wyoming High School, where Warmbier graduated in 2013, 

By 9 a.m., officials had told the crowd that the school had reached its 2,500-person capacity and that a staging area would be set up for those still outside.

“This process has been an example of evil and love and good,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) told reporters outside the school. “This community and country have come together″ and are “holding this family up in prayer.”

Portman also said Warmbier “should’ve never been detained. The North Koreans need to be held accountable for that.”      

The service was open to the public, though the Warmbier family asked media not to film inside the school or at his burial site.

Bagpipes could be heard in the background as friends and family escorted Warmbier’s casket to a hearse following the school service. The burial was to take place at nearby Oak Hill Cemetery.

Warmbier was an athlete and salutatorian at the school, located about 10 miles north of Cincinnati, Ohio, and spoke at his graduation in 2013.

He went on to become an honors student at University of Virginia and would have been a member of its 2017 graduating class.

Warmbier died Monday, just days after his release from a North Korean prison where he was held for over a year. Part of a tour group, he was arrested in January 2016 for attempting to steal propaganda banner and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in April 2016.

He was returned to the U.S. last week in a state of “unresponsive wakefulness” after suffering a severe neurological injury, according to doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

The cause of Warmbier’s death hasn’t been determined. The Hamilton County Coroner’s Office said Tuesday it would investigate his death, but later announced its staff had only performed an external exam of the body because his family objected to an autopsy

Flags around Warmbier’s hometown were lowered to half-staff in the days leading up to the service. Wyoming High School students tied blue and white ribbons on trees and telephone poles along the three-mile funeral procession route, according to local NBC affiliate WLWT5.

Fred Warmbier “lost his son to an insidious regime,” William Riekert, a mourner, told WLWT5 at the service. “I don’t understand how some people can be so horrible to human beings.”

  • Bill Pugliano via Getty Images
    The memorial program for the funeral of Otto Warmbier that was held Thursday in his hometown of Wyoming, Ohio.
  • PAUL VERNON via Getty Images
    Support for the Warmbier family is posted on a sign outside the Wyoming Civic Center.
  • PAUL VERNON via Getty Images
    Blue and white ribbons were tied onto trees near the funeral service.
  • Bill Pugliano via Getty Images
    People lined up outside Wyoming High School for Warmbier's funeral.
  • PAUL VERNON via Getty Images
    Mourners hug one another outside the funeral.
  • PAUL VERNON via Getty Images
    People gathered early for the service.
  • John Sommers II / Reuters
    The hearse arrives carrying the body of Otto Warmbier.
  • John Sommers II / Reuters
    Mourners stand outside before the funeral. 
  • PAUL VERNON via Getty Images
    A mourner is seen leaving Wyoming High School.
  • John Sommers II / Reuters
    More than 2,500 people showed up for the funeral.
  • John Sommers II / Reuters
    Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) talks to reporters outside the high school.
  • Handout via Getty Images
    Photos of Otto line the hallways as people attend the funeral service. 
  • Handout via Getty Images
    In this handout provided by The Warmbier Family, a collection of Otto's belongings he had with him while traveling abroad is displayed at the funeral service. 
  • Handout via Getty Images
    People attend the funeral service of Otto Warmbier. 
  • John Sommers II / Reuters
    Fred and Cindy Warmbier follow their son's casket to the hearse. 
  • Bill Pugliano via Getty Images
     People line the street as the hearse carrying Otto Warmbier passes by on its way to the cemetery. 

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