Student-athlete killed when elevator collapsed in Atlanta apartment building

Champion Prep Academy student killed in elevator incident in Atlanta.
Champion Prep Academy student killed in elevator incident in Atlanta.(WGCL)
Updated: Sep. 1, 2021 at 6:32 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - A Champion Prep Academy student is dead after an incident involving an elevator at an apartment building in Atlanta.

Atlanta police confirmed officers responded to assist fire and rescue personnel after reports that a person was trapped and crushed in the elevator Tuesday afternoon. According to police, the officers helped with crowd control.

Witnesses said three football players boarded an elevator on an upper floor of the building at 444 Highland on their way to practice. Soon after boarding, the witnesses said, the elevator felt as though it was beginning to fall before stopping and opening normally on the third floor.

Witnesses told CBS46 two of the three football players exited the elevator immediately; however, before the third player was able to exit, the elevator began free-falling. They said the young man was crushed and trapped between the top of the elevator and the floor of the shaft below for nearly one hour before being recovered.

Officials from Champion Prep Academy -- a program that bridges the gap between high school and college for athletes hoping for scholarships -- confirmed the student succumbed to his injuries and said his family is traveling from Missouri to Atlanta.

CBS46 will release the student’s name once it’s confirmed by authorities.

CBS46 obtained a photo from a 444 Student Housing resident which shows the elevator appears to be more than a year overdue for an inspection. The resident said she took the photo in July, wanting to keep it in case something ever happened.

The image shows the elevator’s last inspection was August of 2019 and its next inspection, according to the picture, was supposed to be August of 2020.

hampion Prep Academy football players who asked not to be identified told CBS46 that during the ordeal, they were unable to see the top half of their friend’s body because it was crushed in between the gap. Only his bottom half remained dangling, they said.

“I ain’t even got the words,” one teammate said in disbelief. “His feet were moving at first. Then it stopped. He went unconscious.”

Another teammate said, “We all came here for school. I came here three weeks ago, and we instantly clicked, so seeing somebody I’m close with like that, it hurts.”

A GoFundMe has been setup in McFarland’s name.

When CBS46 journalists tried to gather information at the location, security personnel kicked them off the property. Messages requesting a statement on the investigation and allegations of housing issues did not get an immediate response.

Property Manager Nathan Phillips at 444 Highland Avenue released the following statement:

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 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.

Additional details:

  • The elevator was not due for its next five-year inspection until 2024 (it passed in 2019).
  • Smaller annual inspections do occur and the most recent one for this elevator occurred under the previous owner. The building changed ownership in December 2020.
  • The elevator has been on a constant maintenance program with a licensed Georgia elevator company.
  • The building’s two elevators were serviced as recently as last week.
  • This elevator does not have any history of previous incidents, despite news reports.
  • This elevator will remain closed until further notice.