The search continues for a 6-year-old boy who went missing from a Gastonia park on Saturday.
According to local police, Maddox Ritch was last seen around 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 22 at Rankin Lake Park off of Hwy 321 in Gastonia. He is described as 4’0″ tall, weighing 45 pounds with blonde hair.
Ritch has non-verbal autism.
Authorities released photos on Monday that showed what Ritch was last seen wearing: an orange t-shirt with writing “I am the man” on it, with black shorts with a white stripe.
Investigators said that one of Ritch’s parents and two other adults were walking behind the lake when Maddox took off running. When they weren’t able to find him, they called 911.
Now a full-scale search and rescue is underway, and the area authorities are looking in has been expanded two miles outside of the park.
Officials are also working to obtain surveillance video from any businesses in the area.
Some of the employees at those nearby businesses are also helping in the search.
“I prayed that I would find him. That he would be hidden somewhere. That I could help him. I prayed that I would see his little face and little orange shirt and tell him it’s OK and I’m going to get help for you and take him home. I prayed that more than anything that he’d be OK,” Krystal Peninger told FOX 46.
Her company backs up to Rankin Lake Park where he went missing Saturday afternoon.
Peninger said she’s been on the lookout for Ritch. She’s been searching behind the building and inside trailers at her business off Tulip Drive in Gastonia.
“We opened all of them to make sure that he wasn’t hiding in them or had not gone into them or that the doors weren’t open. I walked out here this morning. There’s a few storm drains back along the fence line. I spoke with one of the searchers who was out there this morning. He said they had already checked all the storm drains,” Penninger said.
The FBI and local authorities have joined the now four-day long search for Maddox.
— FBI Charlotte (@FBICharlotte) September 24, 2018
“Prayers are with the family, with the first responders, with everyone involved that he comes home and he’s safe,” Penninger said.
Investigators are asking anyone who was at Rankin Lake Park Saturday afternoon and took pictures or video to call (704) 869-1075.
You can watch today’s press conference below, or by clicking here.