A Missouri family is mourning the loss of their 18-year-old son, who tragically passed away on Wednesday in an elevaqtor accident.
JauMarcus McFarland was attending Champion Prep Academy in Atlanta, Georgia 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 when it suddenly collapsed. It took McFarland down with it and pinned him between the second and third floors.
He remained trapped there for nearly an hour, as his teammates tried to help him free. Atlanta Fire Rescue Department were eventually able to free him and transport 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.”
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.”
“He was one of our teammates, our brothers, our closest friends,” teammate and friend Bryson Grove told Fox 5.
Many who lived with McFarland at the 444 Suites Student Housing repeatedly complained about malfunctioning elevators since moving in last month.
“We knew something like this was going to happen one day”, Grove told the station. “Didn’t know it was going to take one of our teammates’ life.”
The property’s owner Nathan Phillips claimed in a statement that 16 athletes were inside the elevator at the time of the accident, going over the 3,000-pound weight capacity by nearly 1,000 pounds. He added that the elevator last passed its inspection in August 2019 and was not due for another until 2024.
McFarland’s coach at the academy, Michael Carson, told WGCL-TV that the 19-year-old “was definitely one of those kids that had the potential.”
“You spend your whole life really trying to help kids, particularly our kids, and to have him go out like this, it’s just really heart-wrenching,” Carson said.