ATLANTA (CBS46) — A former Pattonville High School student was killed in Atlanta Tuesday, when he was crushed by a malfunctioning elevator. 

JauMarcus McFarland, who was currently attending Champion Prep Academy, died in an accident at 444 Highland Avenue. Witnesses told CBS46 the elevator went into freefall as he was trying to exit it, trapping, and crushing him.

Georgia Prep Academy Football Coach Michael Carson was heartbroken when trying talking about McFarland.

"It's just heart-wrenching": Coach of slain student-athlete shares agony after tragic accident

“JauMarcus was definitely one of those kids that had the potential,” Carson said through tears.

Carson recounted some of McFarland's final moments, describing emergency workers' frantic fight to save his life.

“They had to revive him there,” he explained. “They got a heartbeat. They rushed him around the corner to Atlanta Medical Center. He went out again. They were able to bring him back. Then he went out a third time.”

A photo of the elevator’s inspection certificate shows it was past due for a checkup, with the last inspection expiring in August 2020.

Student athlete dies inside collapsing elevator in Atlanta student housing building

The image shows the elevator's last inspection was August 2019 and its next inspection, according to the picture, was supposed to be August 2020.

Loved ones in Missouri are furious over what they see as neglect, and McFarland's life being taken as a result. 

"How could you all have an elevator and not inspected it in over a year? That’s ridiculous. No one should ever have to die as painful as he died,” said Lorna Kershaw, McFarland's childhood friend.

In a statement to CBS46, a spokesperson with the Office of Commissioner of Insurance said, “Elevators are required to be inspected annually – and it is the responsibility of the permit holder (whether that’s the building owner, manager, etc.) to request an inspection from our office.”

JauMarcus

While the investigation into McFarland’s death continues, he leaves behind devastated friends, family, and coaches.

"It just hurts because he was starting to change his life around," said his cousin Demetrius Mays. "He was happy to play football again, to get away, to try to make it out of where we from. Because where we are from, a lot of people don't get a lot of chances”

“You spend your whole life really trying to help kids, particularly our kids, and to have him go out like this, it’s just really heart-wrenching,” Carson said.

CBS46 received this statement from 444 student housing:
 
Statement from Nathan Phillips, Property Manager at 444 Highland Avenue NE

First, we want to offer our sincere condolences to the family of this young man, his teammates, and his friends. The state inspectors will release their findings in due course, so it would be inappropriate for us to discuss full details until that report is complete. 

What we can say is the weight capacity of the elevator was 3000 lbs. — but the 16 young athletes who were inside the elevator when this occurred pushed that limit to nearly 4000 lbs. Unfortunately, this appears to be what started the domino effect of events leading to the unfortunate death of this young man. This is a horrible tragedy, and it deeply saddens us all that this has happened.

Additional details:
  • The elevator was not due for its next five-year inspection until 2024 (it passed in 2019). 
  • Smaller annual inspections do occur and the most recent one for this elevator occurred under the previous owner. The building changed ownership in December 2020.
  • The elevator has been on a constant maintenance program with a licensed Georgia elevator company. 
  • The building’s two elevators were serviced as recently as last week.
  • This elevator does not have any history of previous incidents, despite news reports.
  • This elevator will remain closed until further notice. 
CBS46 then sent follow-up questions about why the property missed inspections and previous resident complaints of elevator  issues.
The company responded:
It’s actually the responsibility of the state to do inspections, and it’s our understanding that, in 2020, many inspections were not done because of Covid. That said, this owner didn’t control the building in 2020, but we do understand the elevator company was in the process of calling for the 2021 inspection and had not yet received a date when this incident occurred.

It’s also important to note that we should wait for the state inspectors to release their findings of what happened, but sadly, it appears the root of this tragedy lies in the fact the weight of these 16 young athletes far exceeded the weight capacity of that elevator. 
 
We can only speak to the time this owner has been in charge of this building. Since December 2020, this elevator (Elevator 1), in which this tragic incident occurred, did not have a history of issues. There is a second elevator (Elevator 2, which is actually brand new) that has had some minor issues. And yes, we have had to shut that down occasionally to address it. It’s more likely Elevator 2 is what the residents are referring to. 

Copyright 2021 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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