The devastated dad of a missing 6-year-old boy in North Carolina is grappling with his own guilt over the child's disappearance, and remains in disbelief that his son has not yet been found.
Maddox Ritch, who has autism and is nonverbal, disappeared Saturday while walking with his dad in Rankin Lake Park. The child ran ahead of his father and vanished.
Ian Ritch said he immediately became flustered when he couldn’t find Maddox.
"We were walking on a track around the lake and he decided to take off from me. ... I didn’t think nothing of it and he got a little too far away from me," Ian Ritch told "Good Morning America" Wednesday. "As soon as I got to the point where I couldn’t see him anymore, I started panicking. I couldn’t see him anywhere."
The FBI and Gastonia Police Department have teamed up to search for Maddox since his disappearance. They’re now scouring the park, even playing voice recordings of his parents’ voices in a bid to draw Maddox out.
"After the first day, I thought they would have found him," Ritch told “GMA,” adding that he feels guilty for allowing Maddox to get out of his sight.
"It's hard to sleep," Ritch said. "I feel guilty because I can go to a house and lay down on the bed and he's out there in the woods sleeping on the ground and that’s very upsetting."
Maddox’s mom is pleading with the public for tips. The police said they have received hundreds thus far. The FBI is also offering a $10,000 reward for tips leading to Maddox’s discovery.
"Maddox is my whole world and my reason for living," Carrie Ritch said Tuesday during a press conference.
Maddox is described as white, with blond hair and blue eyes. He’s 4 feet tall and weighs about 45 pounds.
He was last seen wearing an orange T-shirt with “I am the man” written on it and black shorts with a white stripe.
Anyone with information is urged to call the Gastonia police tip line at 704-869-1075.