18-year-old killed when elevator collapses in Atlanta apartment building, traps him

The 19-year-old was trapped between two floors when the elevator collapsed at 444 Highland Avenue.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Combined ShapeCaption
The 19-year-old was trapped between two floors when the elevator collapsed at 444 Highland Avenue.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

A local student-athlete died Tuesday after an elevator at a northeast Atlanta apartment complex collapsed, pinning him between two floors.

JauMarcus McFarland, 18, died after being trapped in an elevator at 444 Highland Avenue during an incident family friends are calling “preventable,” Channel 2 Action News reported.

Combined ShapeCaption
JauMarcus McFarland

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

JauMarcus McFarland

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Combined ShapeCaption
JauMarcus McFarland

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

In a statement, the property manager for the complex said more than a dozen people were in the elevator moments before the fatal incident, pushing it past its 3,000-pound weight limit. However, residents said they’ve been voicing concerns about the elevator’s safety for months.

Firefighters were sent to the complex about 3 p.m. after receiving a report of a man pinned in an elevator, the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department said in a statement. First responders found the teenager trapped between the second and third floors.

Crews worked for an hour to free the trapped man. As they worked to extricate him, they noted he had a faint pulse “but was not alert,” officials said. McFarland was taken to Atlanta Medical Center, where he went into cardiac arrest and died.

“The elevators have been shut down until a state inspector determines the reason for the collapse,” Atlanta Fire Rescue said. No other injuries were reported.

While the fire department has not officially released the victim’s identity, people who knew him said McFarland was a football player at Champion Prep Academy. McFarland, who was from Missouri, started attending the school in early August, hoping to raise his ACT score enough to earn a scholarship to attend college, Champion Prep coach Michael Carson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“It’s heartbreaking,” teammate Bryson Grove told Channel 2. “Because I knew what he wanted. He wanted to go play ball.”

Some of McFarland’s Champion Prep teammates told Channel 2 the elevator had malfunctioned while they were inside it. The others made it out, but McFarland became trapped, the news station reported.

In an emailed statement, 444 Highland Avenue Property Manager Nathan Phillips offered condolences to McFarland’s family, teammates and friends after what he said appeared to be a “domino effect of events leading to the unfortunate death of this young man.”

“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,” the statement 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.”

Residents of the complex told Channel 2 the elevator frequently malfunctioned and they had filed several complaints alerting property management about the issue. They also said the elevator’s inspection certificate had expired last year and the machine had not been inspected since August 2019.

“We knew this was going to happen one day,” Grove told Channel 2. “We didn’t know it was going to take one of our teammates’ lives.”

Phillips confirmed the elevator was last inspected in 2019, but said it was not due for its next five-year inspection until 2024.

“The elevator has been on a constant maintenance program with a licensed Georgia elevator company,” he said. “The building’s two elevators were serviced as recently as last week.”

A spokesman for Safety Fire Commissioner John F. King confirmed inspectors are investigating the incident. The findings of the inspection will “determine the need for further investigation or action by our office,” the spokesman said.