Maddox Ritch's father grieves death of 6-year-old: 'I found out I'm not a dad anymore'

The father of Maddox Ritch is grieving the death of his son after the 6-year-old's body was found Thursday.

Ian Ritch took to Facebook in the wake of his son’s death to talk about his loss.

“Today I found out I'm not a dad anymore,” Ritch wrote. “From this moment on for the rest of my life I will live with the guilt of not being there to save my son. The most important person in my life.”

The discovery of Maddox’s body ended a six-day search for the boy, who disappeared while in North Carolina’s Rankin Lake Park last Saturday with his dad.

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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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Ritch said Maddox, who is nonverbal and has autism, ran ahead of him and then vanished.

Ritch described in the Facebook post that he initially thought Maddox would be found right away, but as time passed, he grew more “scared and worried.”

Maddox’s body was found partially underwater in a marshy area of Long Creek about three-quarters of a mile away from where Ritch said he had lost sight of his son.

“Now im no heroe i couldnt save him or protect him at all," Ritch wrote. "I would give anything to go back and save him."

More than a dozen agencies participated in the search for Maddox. Authorities said the investigation is not over and they are still asking anyone who may have been in the park on Saturday to come forward.

“I want to say thank u from the bottom of my heart to everyone who took part in searching for my sweet lil buddy,” Ritch continued in the post.  “Maddox was my only child and he will be the only one I will ever have.”

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