Insurance commissioner says building where teen was crushed by elevator lied to residents

ATLANTA — State inspectors are coming down hard on the property owners of an Atlanta high-rise where an elevator collapse killed a teenager.

Inspectors are now calling the building unsafe.

Building management originally told Channel 2 Action News that it was working with state inspectors but the state insurance commissioner told Channel 2′s Tom Jones that’s not true.

Insurance Commissioner John F. King said inspectors have been getting the runaround.

The state fire marshal stopped by the 444 Highland Friday with notices informing everyone inside about safety hazards it says it found.

“We have notices to give to the property manager and put on the building advising of some of our concerns with the systems here,” the fire marshal said.

People who use the building say they’ve noticed run-down conditions for quite a while.

“It’s not livable,” is how Anita Johnson said conditions inside the building were.

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King said his inspectors have been trying to make sure there are safety improvements in the building after Jemarcus McFarland, 18, died when the elevator he was in crushed him.

“We lost a human life,” King said. “Jemarcus lost his life as a result of these people just ignoring the law.”

King told Jones that the elevator’s inspection was not up to date. He said his office found 16 violations at a second out-of-service elevator, including unlicensed technicians working on it.

“Those poor residents deserve better,” King said.

He said his inspectors found violations with the boilers: from incomplete installations, to installations without permits or inspections.

“We put tags on the equipment not to be used and some of those tags were removed,” King said.

Building management sent a notice to tenants saying it is diligently working with state inspectors to resolve the issues.

“That is patently false,” King said.

King told Jones that he is frustrated with how the building managers have responded to inspectors’ concerns.

“This takes some gall to be able to operate this way,” King said.

Johnson said the building needs a complete makeover, or to be closed.

“I believe it needs to be shut down,” Johnson said.

Jones contacted a representative for 444 Highland for comment on this story. So far, he has not heard back.

Meanwhile, King said the building’s owners have racked up nearly $13,000 in fines. He said the fines will keep coming until the building is safe.

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