Father of missing boy Maddox Ritch speaks out; says he ‘started panicking’ after he got out of sight

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The father of the missing 6-year-old boy in Gastonia says he “started panicking” after his son got out of sight.

Ian Ritch says he and his son frequently walked in Rankin Lake Park. That’s where they were Saturday. Ritch said his son often ran ahead of him, and then would slow down and wait for him to catch up.

But on Saturday, the boy, who has autism and is nonverbal, ran too far ahead, and Ian Ritch lost sight of him.

Ian said he “started panicking.”

“We were walking on a track around the lake and he decided to take off from me. … I didn’t think nothing of it and he got a little too far away from me,” Ian Ritch told “Good Morning America” Wednesday. “As soon as I got to the point where I couldn’t see him anymore, I started panicking. I couldn’t see him anywhere.”

The FBI and numerous other agencies have been searching for the boy ever since.

“After the first day I thought they would have found him,” Ian said.

“I feel like I should’ve caught him, not let him get too far,” he said. “That’s what upsets me. It’s hard to sleep. I feel guilty because I can go to a house and lay down on the bed, and he’s out there in the woods sleeping on the ground and that’s very upsetting.”

Maddox’s mother, Carrie, spoke at a news conference Tuesday: “Maddox is my whole world and my reason for living,” she said.

Authorities said they are investigating all possibilities into what led to little Maddox’s disappearance.

“If you were at Rankin Lake Park on Saturday and saw Maddox or took video or photos of their outing at the park, call us,” Helton said Sunday. “We know a lot of people were in the park, and we have spoken to many of them, but we have not spoken to everyone. No piece of information is too small. Something you may think is insignificant could be helpful to our case.”

Police said Maddox is 4 feet tall and weighs 45 pounds. He has blond hair and blue eyes. Maddox was last seen wearing an orange T-shirt with the words “I am the man,” along with black shorts and closed-toe sandals.

The FBI is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information that leads to his location.

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