Federal agents join search for missing 6-year-old

- Full scale search and rescue efforts began after 7 a.m. Monday for a 6-year-old autistic boy who disappeared Saturday afternoon in Gastonia. Monday marks day three of the search. 

The search for Maddox Ritch has now been expanded two miles outside of Rankin Lake Park. 

According to Gastonia police, Ritch was last seen around 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22 at Rankin Lake Park off of Hwy 321 in Gastonia.

Ritch is described as 4'0" tall weighing 45 pounds with blonde hair. He has non-verbal autism. The little boy was last seen wearing an orange t-shirt with writing "I am the man" on it, with black shorts with a white stripe. 

Investigators say that one of Ritch's parents and two other adults were walking on the backside of the lake when Maddox took off running and got out of their sight. When they weren't able to locate him shortly afterwards, they called 911. 

A search was conducted around and in the lake by multiple agencies including Gastonia Police, Gaston County Police, and multiple fire departments from Gaston County including the Gastonia Fire Department. The Charlotte Fire Department was also called to assist in the search. 

On Sunday, FBI agents joined in the search.

“The FBI has very specially trained teams that are especially focused on finding missing children," said FBI Supervisor, Jason Kaplan.

During the search Sunday, the park remained closed to the public. The Charlotte Fire Department once again launched boats out on the water and CMPD assisted with the use of their helicopter Sunday afternoon. A new tip line has been setup for the public to call with any information. 

Investigators are asking anyone who was at Rankin Lake Park Saturday afternoon and took pictures or video to call (704) 869-1075.

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