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Football player, 18, crushed to death in student housing elevator

JauMarcus McFarland was enrolled at Champion Prep Academy, a second-chance program for high school graduates.

In a tragic story just as school is starting across the country, a family is mourning a young student-athlete who was killed on Wednesday in an elevator crash. 

JauMarcus McFarland was enrolled at Champion Prep Academy in Atlanta, Georgia, a second-opportunity program for high school graduates that combines academics and athletes who have aspirations to play college football. 

McFarland was headed to practice with teammates, leaving the 444 Suites Student Housing in Northeast Atlanta. He got into the elevator just after 3 p.m. when it malfunctioned.

The student-athletes told Fox 29 the elevator stopped at the building’s third floor, and almost all of them got off, but when McFarland tried to exit, his teammates described the elevator falling and taking him down with it. The elevator got pinned between the second and third floors, they said, and McFarland was trapped between the top of the elevator and the building’s floor for nearly an hour.

Champion Prep Academy football player JauMarcus McFarland, 18, was killed Wednesday in an elevator crash in a student housing building. (GoFundMe.com)

His teammates tried to free him, and when the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department arrived and were able to free McFarland, the 18-year-old was transported to Atlanta Medical Center, where he died. 

The president of the Georgia Prep Sports Academy told People magazine McFarland’s passing was “a tragedy.” The program’s president and founder, Michael Carson said McFarland’s family in his native Missouri are “utterly devastated.” 

He called McFarland one of the program’s brightest stars. 

This young man was here for his education and died in a tragic elevator accident. They need $$ to fly the body back home. This is so sad. Funeral Costs in honor of JauMarcus McFarland https://t.co/5f6XK4m8Dt

— andee (@andreajordan66) September 2, 2021

NEW: JauMarcus McFarland’s uncle tells me the 18-year-old was afraid to use the elevators at 444 Highland Avenue, says he would often take the stairs. He said on Sunday, McFarland complained to his grandmother about the elevators. He died Tuesday pic.twitter.com/F0RfNaftCv

— Ashley Thompson (@AshleyCBS46) September 2, 2021

“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,” Carson said. “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.”

A GoFundMe.com effort has been launched to help his family pay for funeral costs.

McFarland, he said, “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,” Carson added, “and to have him go out like this, it’s just really heart-wrenching. We are going to definitely miss him.”

The property manager of the student housing building, Nathan Phillips, issued a statement to CBS46, saying, “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,” Phillips added, “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.” 

According to Phillips, the elevator was due for a five-year inspection in 2024, having just passed one in 2019. It had not had an annual inspection last year due to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. 

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