A worker at a park where a North Carolina boy with autism went missing nearly a week ago said Wednesday he never saw the 6-year-old in the area prior to his disappearance.
Rick Foxx, who called police last Saturday to report Maddox Ritch missing, told CBS News the boy’s father, Ian Ritch, and his friend, who has not been identified, didn’t seem concerned about the child. Ritch had told police his son, who has nonverbal autism, ran ahead of him and disappeared from his view while they were at Rankin Lake Park, about 20 miles west of Charlotte.
Foxx also told WSOC-TV that Ritch seemed “out of breath” when he approached him asking for help. Foxx added that he went out to look for Maddox and contacted police when he couldn’t find the child.
The 911 call released by police Wednesday showed a park employee telling the dispatcher that Maddox’s parents and officials “searched everywhere” for the child, FOX46 reported.
The park remains closed Thursday as the search continued. The FBI dive team was deployed Thursday to search the lake that serves as a reservoir, as other officials searched the surrounding marshlands and woods.
“I just want my little boy back home. I want to know he’s safe. I want to give him a big hug as soon as I see him,” he added. “I just want to know he’s safe.”
Ritch said he “couldn’t catch up” to his son when he ran ahead on Saturday, adding that he feels “guilt for letting him get so far ahead.”
Maddox is described as 4 feet, 45 pounds with blonde hair. He was last seen wearing an orange “I am the man” T-shirt and black shorts with a white stripe.