URGENT: Little boy with special needs disappears from park, federal authorities join search

North Carolina authorities are searching for a 6-year-old boy who vanished from Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia on Saturday.

WSOCTV reports that Maddox Ritch disappeared around 1:30 p.m. Saturday while with his family at Rankin Lake. Family members stated they last saw him at the park area with his dad and another adult when he wandered off on his own, according to authorities.

“They were walking around the lake,” Gastonia spokeswoman Rachel Bagley said. “They got around to the backside of the lake. He started running, according to the parents, and when they started running after him, they just lost sight of him, and then no one has seen him ever since.”

Maddox is 4-feet-tall and weighs around 45 pounds. He has blonde hair, blue eyes and was last seen wearing black shorts and an orange shirt with “I’m the Man” printed on the front. He is autistic and non-verbal, according to police.

Posted by Missing Pieces Network on Sunday, September 23, 2018


On Saturday afternoon, search and rescue boats were seen in the area. Crews and search dogs worked throughout the night trying to locate the boy. Federal authorities have now joined the search.

As of Sunday, all activities at Rankin State Park have been closed until further notice. Police are asking the public to also stay away from the surrounding areas as they continue to look for Maddox.

Anyone with any information on the little boy’s whereabouts should call Gastonia police at 704-866-3300.

The story is still developing. Check back with CrimeOnline as additional details become available.

[Feature Photo: Maddox Ritch/Handout]