3:22 PM PDT, September 2, 2021
An 18-year-old football player was tragically killed after he was trapped and crushed when an elevator he was on at a student-housing building at the Atlanta prep academy he attended suddenly malfunctioned, officials said.
JauMarcus McFarland died on Tuesday after succumbing to his injuries, WGCL News reported.
McFarland, a first-year student attending Champion Prep Academy, a post-graduate academic-athletic program that provides “a bridge” between high school and college for athletes hoping for scholarships, was on the elevator with approximately 15 other students before the freak accident occurred.
Witnesses said McFarland was the last one to exit the elevator when it fell. The young athlete got trapped between the top of the elevator and the floor of the shaft for nearly an hour before he was recovered, the news outlet said.
“We are all devastated,” Michael Carson, owner of Champion Prep Academy told Inside Edition Digital. “JauMarcus was very pleasant to be around and definitely one of the leaders in our program. It’s a tragic loss.”
Carson said that when the elevator stopped on the third floor and the doors opened the elevator did not come to a full stop. As McFarland tried to exit, the elevator continued to fall downward trapping him between the third and fourth floors.
Carson said many of the students on the elevator were attempting to pull him back into the elevator but they were unable to.
Many of the players are having a tough time since Tuesday’s tragedy, Carson said. “As you can imagine learning that one of your teammates is gone. It’s hitting everyone with all different emotions. We don’t know how to make sense of it.”
Carson told Inside Edition Digital that the elevator inspection was 13-months past due based on the timestamp dated August 19, 2019. An inspection was due on August 20, 2020.
One building resident had been complaining about the elevators and took a picture of the inspection certificate last month in case something ever happened, WGCL reported.
Nathan Phillips, property manager at 444 Highland Avenue NE, where the tragedy occurred, released a statement saying the elevator was not due for its five-year inspection until 2024 and had been serviced as recently as last week, CBS46 reported.
“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,” Phillips said.
He continued: “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,” Phillips said. “What we can say is the weight capacity of the elevator was 3,000 lbs., but the 16 young athletes who were inside the elevator when this occurred pushed that limit to nearly 4,000 lbs.”
He added: “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,” Philips said.
Phillips said the elevator will remain closed until further notice, WHSV reported.
Carson said the day of the tragedy the players were getting ready for a 3 p.m. practice for a game scheduled Thursday night in Little Rock, Arkansas, against Arkansas Baptist. The game was canceled.
Grief counseling is being offered by a pastor and a mentoring organization for those students who may need it.
JauMarcus, who was from Missouri joined the academy on August 1. It was his first year in the program, Carson said. He was a starter and his position was offense left tackle.
‘We just hate that it ended like this. It is just a devastating loss for us. We will never be able to replace JaMarcus. Never,” Carson said.
A GoFundMe has been set up to help the family pay for McFarland’s funeral expenses. As of Thursday, $3,030 has been raised towards their goal of $20,000.
“Our beloved JauMarcus McFarland, of Missouri, tragically died on September 1st, in an elevator accident. JauMarcus was a wonderful teammate who touched the lives of those around him. We are at a loss and his family in Missouri is utterly devastated,” Vince Lindenmeyer, the campaign fundraiser wrote.
JauMarcus McFarland of Pattonville High School in Maryland Heights, Missouri, had dreams to improve his grades in order to play football in college and earn a bachelor’s degree,” Lindenmeyer wrote.