Members of Gastonia search team who found Maddox Ritch recognized

Members of the Gastonia search team that found Maddox Ritch’s body were honored at a ceremony Tuesday. The Civil Air Patrol Gastonia Composite Squadron were awarded the “find ribbon.”

The six-year-old’s body was discovered in a Gaston County creek in September in Rankin Lake Park. Some of the cadets who joined the exhaustive search were teenagers and their parents.

“It was very close and personal to all of us,” said 1st Lt. Carey Head. “It’s not often we participate in a search mission so close to home.”

Head was recognized along with his son. He says his family has been to Rankin Lake Park many times, but when the state called his team members to join the search, they were looking off the beaten trail in unfamiliar territory.

RELATED: Body found in Gastonia positively identified as Maddox Ritch

“We were going to places we had never been before.”

The autopsy for the autistic child reads, “the likely cause of death is drowning.” No criminal charges were filed.

Members hope their efforts brought the Ritch family closure but say they will always remember the search, wearing the “find ribbon” on their uniform.

“I’m sorry for their loss and I’m happy we were able to help in any way that we could,” said 1st Lt. Cade Caudle.

Those honored include:

  • 1st Lt. Derk Beutler 
  • 1st Lt. Carey Head Major Michael Bramlet
  • 1st Lt. Alison Caudle
  • 1st Lt. Sue Beutler
  • SM Ben Lakey
  • Lt. Col. Jerry Oxendine
  • Cpt. Donna Parker
  • C/CMSgt. Catalina Ziegler
  • C/CMSgt. Will Smith
  • C/1Lt. Cade Caudle
  • C/TSgt Blake Click
  • C/Cpt. Anthony DiPasquale
  • C/1Lt. Eli Head
  • C/2Lt Ben Heckel

For more information on the Civil Air Patrol Gastonia Composite Squadron visit their website.