Family to Conduct Independent Investigation After Teen Pinned, Killed in Elevator Collapse

The family of JauMarcus McFarland has hired a law firm to conduct an independent investigation into the 18-year-old's death.

McFarland, a football player at Champion Prep Academy in Georgia, died on August 31 after being pinned between two floors when an elevator suddenly collapsed in a high-rise building in Atlanta.

At a press conference on Tuesday, McFarland's mother and stepfather spoke out for the first time.

"My son came here to do what he liked to do, which is to play football," his mother said. "He wasn't able to fulfill that. I just want answers. I'm overwhelmed by the whole thing."

McFarland was described as "happy-go-lucky" and a "gentle bear" by his stepfather.

Shean Williams, a partner at The Cochran Firm, told reporters Tuesday that the family has retained the firm to conduct a full investigation into McFarland's death.

Williams said their investigation has already unearthed a "long history of issues and problems" at the building in question. 11Alive reported the state insurance commissioner's office confirmed last week that the yearly inspection permit for the elevator expired in August 2020.

"It is tragic because it is predictable that with these prior incidents and issues at that apartment with these elevators, the question wasn't 'Was it going to happen?'" Willaims said. "The unfortunate question is, 'When it was going to happen and who it was going to happen to?'"

Sam Starks, a senior attorney at the firm, said the probe will focus on the owners and the managers of the apartment complex. It will also look into the role of the Champion Prep Academy in providing care and supervision for its students.

"This family obviously deserves answers," Starks said, "and certainly they deserve justice if there is wrongdoing."

The incident is also under investigation by the state insurance commissioner's office.

McFarland Family Calls for Independent Investigation
The family of JauMarcus McFarland is calling for an independent investigation into the 18-year-old’s death after he was pinned in an elevator collapse. In this photo, a police officer blocks an elevator door to prevent journalists from interacting lawmakers at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center on October 4, 2018 in Washington, D.C. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A fundraiser has been started on GoFundMe to help McFarland's family cover his funeral expenses. The money raised will also go toward a scholarship endowment for future players to attend Georgia Prep Sports Academy and Champions Prep football team.

"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 page reads.

More than $17,000 had been donated as of Tuesday afternoon.

Michael Carson, one of McFarland's coaches at Champions Prep Academy, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution it was "devastating" to learn of the teenager's death.

"He was a man of conviction," Carson said. "He was very respectful. Very humble."