A US citizen who survived prison in North Korea died in a fire in San Diego, authorities said Tuesday.
The victim was identified as Aijalon Mahli Gomes, 38, who had recently moved to the city of Boston.
According to a police press release, an off-duty police officer saw Gomes engulfed in flames in a field at 11:30 p.m. M. on November 17. He stopped to provide help and called the firefighters, who finally declared that the man had died at the scene.
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An investigation into the incident to establish the origin and cause of the fire is ongoing, but initial findings suggest that Gomes' death It was not a homicide.
"The preliminary investigation indicates that the death is not a homicide but an accidental death or suicide," police said. "You can not make a final determination until the coroner completes your investigation."
According to Gomes' mother, Jacqueline McCarthy, Gomes was still suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his imprisonment in North Korea. "I know it affected him," he told The San Diego Union-Tribune .
Gomes lived in South Korea and worked as an English teacher when he was arrested in January 2010 for crossing an icy river from China to North Korea, about a month after his friend, American – Korean activist Robert Park, was arrested for the same reason on Christmas Eve 2009.
North Korean authorities sentenced Gomes to eight years of forced labor and fined him with $ 700,000. Gomes' mental health deteriorated rapidly and he attempted suicide while in detention. He was finally released in August 2010, after former President Jimmy Carter traveled to Pyongyang to negotiate his release.
Park was released after 43 days in jail and experienced mental health problems after returning to the US UU As a result of the beatings and torture and badual abuse, he said he suffered while in detention in Pyongyang.
Gomes published a book entitled Violence and Humanity on his experiences as a North Korean prisoner in 2015. "Graphically details the psychological torment of interrogation." and confinement, as well as their amazing partnerships in prison and during hospitalization, "said a description of the book on the self-publishing website BookBaby.
The website describes Gomes as" an educator and active member of the queer community. ", who promoted equality and volunteered at The Home for Little Wanderers, a private nonprofit agency for children and families in his native Mbadachusetts.
According to the biography For example, he spent the five years between his release and publication of the book "working on his recovery from injuries suffered while incarcerated in North Korea."
Writing the book was part of that recovery process. "Even though this autobiography is very personal and graphic ", he was quoted as saying:" I pray that there is something good in sharing it "