ATLANTA (CBS46) — The state fire marshal was on scene today at the housing complex where an 18-year-old was crushed to death by an elevator back in August.

On Aug. 31, Champion Prep Academy student-athlete JauMarcus McFarland was killed after being pinned between an elevator and the third floor of complex.

On Friday, State Fire Marshal Craig Landolt posted a notice at the building regarding new safety concerns with the building.

The notice read:

“To all residents and visitors to this building: The Safety Fire Division of the Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner’s Officer has determined numerous regulatory and safety violations involving the building’s boilers and required emergency service elevator. As a result, emergency services may be hampered, Residents and visitors should exercise due care and caution while on the premises.”

CBS46 has learned the building managers have been fined $5,000 for operating equipment without an operating certificate, and operating equipment in an unsafe condition by the Commissioner of Insurance and Safety Fire. That fine has yet to be paid. On Friday the commissioner’s office said the property had been fined an additional $7,500 for continuing violations.

“It makes me want to run for the hills as fast as possible,” said a resident who didn’t want to give her name and said she had lived in the apartments for three months. “But it also makes me feel upset because we’ve been subjected to these conditions, and it took such a tragedy to happen to shine the light on it.”

The property has received violations for their elevators and boilers. The boilers had been taken offline because of improper installation, according to the commissioner, leaving residents without hot water. The commissioner’s office said they asked the manager’s how hot water was being provided to residents this week, an answer wasn’t provided, and a subsequent inspection found management had turned a boiler back on which was yet another violation. They also stated that management used unlicensed service technicians for elevator maintenance and repairs.

“You know the people are just being slum lords they not doing what they supposed to do basically,” said Anita Johnson, who works in the complex. “There’s no hot water in there, and you know, basically from what I see the building is really raggedy.”

A certificate of the elevator’s inspection shows it was past due for about a year.  Property management is blaming the state, saying they do the inspections, but according to the insurance commissioner, property owners must first request an inspection.

“The property owner ought to look at the code section at the responsibilities,” Insurance Commissioner John King said back in September. “They have clear responsibilities to call our agency for the annual inspections, not just the five-year inspections.”

The Office of Insurance and Safety Fire conducts elevator inspections, but Commissioner King said property owners must first request one. He said 444 Highland Avenue had not requested one since its last inspection in 2019. He said inspections were not halted during the pandemic.


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