JauMarcus McFarland, a student at Champion Prep Academy, was crushed to death Wednesday when an elevator in his Atlanta apartment building collapsed, trapping him between the second and third floor. The 19-year-old football player had aspirations to play for the NFL.
McFarland had only started the program at Atlanta’s Champion Prep Academy in August. The school is for post-graduate students to go before applying to colleges. The program is an academic and athletic hybrid that prepares students for higher education.
JauMarcus McFarland, from Maryland Heights, was attempting to go pro and was a rising star in the program. Reports claimed that he had been living in 444 Suites Student Housing for a month before the tragic accident occurred.
Reports claimed that McFarland and his teammates were heading to practice when they entered the elevator around 3:00 p.m. Within moments the elevator entered a freefall and McFarland was trapped in between the elevator and the third floor of the building. His teammates tried to rescue him but to no avail. They claimed his legs were dangling over the second floor.
After about an hour, first responders managed to free the football player. He was then rushed to Atlanta Medical Center where he later died from his injuries.
His friends and teammates told authorities that they expected the elevator to malfunction because it seemed unkempt. They blamed the property manager for the poor conditions that lead to McFarland’s death.
According to McFarland’s uncle, the football player was afraid to use the elevator in 444 Suites Student Housing and would often take the stairs. The student reportedly complained about the poor elevator conditions to his family before the tragic accident unfolded.
Bryson Grove, one of McFarland’s teammates, explained that “we knew something like this was going to happen one day,” however “we didn’t know it was going to take one of our teammate’s lives.” While no charges have been filed in connection with the incident, many have blamed the property manager, Nathan Phillips.
Phillips, however, claimed that it had nothing to do with a lack of upkeep but rather a violation of the elevator’s safety requirements. He explained that at the time of the freak accident, the elevator had 16 people in it. The weight capacity, which has a 3,000-pound limit, had been pushed an additional 1,000 pounds. Under those conditions, Phillips claimed there was no surprise the elevator would collapse.
He also pointed out that the weight limit was clearly stated inside the elevator. “Unfortunately, this appears to be what started the domino effect of events leading to the unfortunate death of t his young man,” Phillips told reporters. “This is a horrible tragedy, and it deeply saddens us all that this has happened. We want to offer our sincere condolences to the family of this young man, his teammates, and his friends.”
A spokesperson for the State Insurance Commissioner’s Office told Fox News that Phillips neglected the inspection procedures, which they claimed should be done annually. They explained that “inspections are required by state law to be done on an annual basis and it is the building owner’s responsibility to request this yearly inspection from our office.”
They continued, saying that “we do not have a record of any such request from this building.” Officials for the State Insurance Commissioner’s Office confirmed that the operating permit for the unit expired in August 2020. The elevator was supposed to undergo a state inspection.
Despite reports claiming that the elevator had been due for inspection in August 2020, Nathan Phillips told reporters that he passed an inspection in August 2019 and that the next inspection wasn’t required until 2024. He also claimed the elevator was serviced last week.
The tragedy has upset the apartment building and, of course, Champion Prep Academy. JauMarcus McFarland was a beloved student and athlete, according to Michael Carson, the president and founder of the sports academy.
“We all are experiencing the loss of JauMarcus at this present time,” He explained to reporters. “It’s definitely a tragedy to our program, and his family in Missouri is utterly devastated,” Carson claimed McFarland was a promising athlete and shining star.
Carson added that “we get kids from all across the country to come into our program. JauMarcus was just an outstanding kid and a super athlete. He had so much potential. He was 6’6″, 300 lbs.; a left tackle with great footwork. He was one of the leaders on his team. Very respectful, very humble, and very focused. Guys really respected him and his work ethic. We’re all just in shock.”
“He knew exactly what he wanted in life,” Carson said of JauMarcus McFarland – who wanted to go to a good college and play for the NFL. “He was one of those kids who had a 3.5 average out of high school but just didn’t have the test scores. He was using our program to prep for the ACT [American College Test] in hopes of being recruited this month to be on their college campuses in January. His dream was within reach, it really was just tragically taken away from him.”
“You spend your whole life really trying to help these kids, and to have him go out like this, it’s just really heart-wrenching,” Carson admitted. “We are going to definitely miss him.”
A GoFundMe page was set up to support McFarland’s family. The fundraiser has since raised over $7,000 for funeral costs and other expenses that arise.
Written on the page were kind words for McFarland, with the organizers writing that “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.”
“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,” the post added. “JauMarcus dedicated his life to honor God in all things, especially being a caring teammate. His Georgia Prep Sports Academy / Champions Prep coaches and teammates will dedicate the season in his honor, and invest themselves towards achieving dreams in his memory.”