Maddox Ritch: Dad of missing 6-year-old says he feels guilty after disappearance

The devastated dad of a missing 6-year-old boy in North Carolina is grappling with his own guilt over the child's disappearance, and remains in disbelief that his son has not yet been found.

Maddox Ritch, who has autism and is nonverbal, disappeared Saturday while walking with his dad in Rankin Lake Park. The child ran ahead of his father and vanished. 

Ian Ritch said he immediately became flustered when he couldn’t find Maddox.

"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."

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Body of missing North Carolina boy Maddox Ritch found
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Body of missing North Carolina boy Maddox Ritch found

Maddox Scott Ritch, age 6, was last seen at Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia, North Carolina, on September 22, 2018.  He was last seen wearing an orange t-shirt with writing "I am the man" on it and black shorts with a white stripe.

Maddox has autism and is described as being nonverbal.

(Photo: FBI)

Maddox Scott Ritch, age 6, was last seen at Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia, North Carolina, on September 22, 2018.  He was last seen wearing an orange t-shirt with writing "I am the man" on it and black shorts with a white stripe.

Maddox has autism and is described as being nonverbal.

(Photo: FBI)

Maddox Scott Ritch, age 6, was last seen at Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia, North Carolina, on September 22, 2018.  He was last seen wearing an orange t-shirt with writing "I am the man" on it and black shorts with a white stripe.

Maddox has autism and is described as being nonverbal.

(Photo: FBI)

A search team walks down Tulip Drive in Gastonia, N.C., Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018. Local law enforcement officers, fire and rescue personnel, and the FBI continue to look for clues to the whereabouts of 6-year-old Maddox Ritch who disappeared from Rankin Lake Park near downtown Gastonia, on Saturday, Sept. 22. (John Clark /The Gaston Gazette via AP)
Ian Ritch walks in for a press conference Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018, in Gastonia, N.C., about his 6-year-old son Maddox Ritch who disappeared while they were visiting Rankin Lake Park near downtown Gastonia, Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. (John Clark /The Gaston Gazette via AP)
Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton, left, listens as Ian Ritch speaks during a press conference Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018, in Gastonia, N.C., about his 6-year-old son Maddox Ritch who disappeared while they were visiting Rankin Lake Park near downtown Gastonia Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. (John Clark /The Gaston Gazette via AP)
HAPPENING NOW: Gastonia PD, FBI, and several other agencies giving the latest update on the search for Maddox Ritch… https://t.co/aH3SwMfBhB
The father of 6-year-old Maddox Ritch was walking around this lake with his child when police say Maddox ran ahead… https://t.co/JPr09sjKEM
We are searching all around the Rankin lake Park for 6-year-old Maddox Ritch. The @GPDNC SWAT team hand searched th… https://t.co/Z4pWdsbB1V
SEARCH CONTINUES FOR AUTISTIC CHILD: This is the third day authorities are searching for missing 6 y/o Maddox Ritch… https://t.co/hBq14rblLU
POLICE: The search continues at Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia for 6-year-old Maddox Ritch. Dogs from the S-B-I & Na… https://t.co/0faTBZ4LSK
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The FBI and Gastonia Police Department have teamed up to search for Maddox since his disappearance. They’re now scouring the park, even playing voice recordings of his parents’ voices in a bid to draw Maddox out. 

"After the first day, I thought they would have found him," Ritch told “GMA,” adding that he feels guilty for allowing Maddox to get out of his sight.

"It's hard to sleep," Ritch said. "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 mom is pleading with the public for tips. The police said they have received hundreds thus far. The FBI is also offering a $10,000 reward for tips leading to Maddox’s discovery.

"Maddox is my whole world and my reason for living," Carrie Ritch said Tuesday during a press conference.

Maddox is described as white, with blond hair and blue eyes. He’s 4 feet tall and weighs about 45 pounds. 

He was last seen wearing an orange T-shirt with “I am the man” written on it and black shorts with a white stripe.

Anyone with information is urged to call the Gastonia police tip line at 704-869-1075. 

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