Missouri Teen Football Player Crushed to Death in Student Housing Elevator Accident

JauMarcus McFarland, 18, was attending Champion Prep Academy in Atlanta, Georgia, and was en route to practice when an elevator in his apartment building malfunctioned

JauMarcus McFarland
Photo: GoFundMe

A Missouri family is mourning the loss of their 18-year-old son, who died on Wednesday in a tragic elevator crash.

JauMarcus McFarland, of Maryland Heights, was attending Champion Prep Academy in Atlanta, Georgia — a second opportunity program post-graduate academic-athletic program for students with aspirations of playing college football.

He and his teammates were staying at 444 Suites Student Housing in Northeast Atlanta and had gotten into the building's elevator en route to practice just after 3 p.m. when it collapsed, taking McFarland down with it and pinning him between the second and third floors.

The athlete remained trapped there for nearly an hour, as his teammates tried to help him free. Atlanta Fire Rescue Department was able to free McFarland and medics transported him to Atlanta Medical Center, where he later died from his injuries.

"We all are experiencing the loss of JauMarcus at this present time," Michael Carson, president and founder of Georgia Prep Sports Academy, tells PEOPLE. "It's definitely a tragedy to our program, and his family in Missouri is utterly devastated."

McFarland was one of the program's brightest stars, Carson says,

"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."

According to Carson, McFarland had "dreams of going to a major college and having the opportunity to play in the NFL one day."

"He knew exactly what he wanted in life," Carson recalls, getting emotional. "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 adds. "We are going to definitely miss him."

The State Insurance Commissioner's office, who is responsible for inspecting the elevators, as well as the building's property manager did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

A spokesman for the State Insurance Commissioner's office told Fox 5 Atlanta that the operating permit for the unit expired in August 2020.

"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," the spokesman told the outlet. "We do not have a record of any such request from this building."

However, Nathan Phillips — the building's property manager — told CBS46 that the elevator was serviced last week, had passed an inspection in August 2019, and wasn't due for an inspection until 2024.

Phillips went on to tell the outlet that there were 16 athletes in the elevator, and that their body weight pushed past the elevator's weight capacity.

"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.," said Phillips, CBS46 reported. "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," Phillips added, per the outlet. "We want to offer our sincere condolences to the family of this young man, his teammates, and his friends."

While official inspection reports are still pending, Carson tells PEOPLE that McFarland's 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."

A GoFundMe has also been set up to help his family pay for funeral costs.

"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," the GoFundMe post reads.

"JauMarcus dedicated his life to honor God in all things, especially being a caring teammate."

"We know the McFarland family is not prepared for the high cost of a funeral service. We want to provide resources to transport JauMarcus home and help give him the memorial his family will cherish during this horrendous experience," the post reads.

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