Missing autistic boy Maddox Ritch, 6, feared abducted after running out of dad’s sight at park before vanishing

Maddox Ritch does not talk and was last seen on Saturday wearing an orange shirt bearing the words "I am the man" near a lake at a North Carolina beauty spot.

His dad and a friend lost sight of the lad when he was running alongside Rankin Lake Park's reservoir, which provides Gastonia's drinking water.

FBI agents have joined two dozen agencies and more than 100 volunteers to comb dumpsters, land and waterways in and around the park.

Special agent Jason Kaplan told the ABC the FBI was exploring all possibilities, including abduction.

He said: "We're also going to make sure we search every inch of land around here to make sure he's not simply lost."

City of Gastonia spokeswoman Rachel Bagley said the family had been walking around the lake when "they lost sight of him, and no one has seen him since".

Search and rescue and emergency teams had "re-searched the lake and surrounding areas as well as reviewing video from surveillance cameras at the park and nearby homes and businesses".

Members of the Charlotte Fire Department have used boats to check the lake, while about 120 volunteers have been searching more than 1,400 acres around the lake.

All activities at the park have been cancelled and the site has been closed to visitors, as dogs from the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children comb the area.

Aside from using sonar devices to examine the lake and deep holes near it, a police helicopter has also been deployed to use infrared technology to try and find any sign of the child.

When asked at a press conference if any of Maddox's family are considered suspects, city officials said they were not ruling anything out.

But when asked why his parents have yet to talk publicly about the missing boy, a FBI spokesman said they had asked for privacy.

In a Facebook post, government officials suggested people should "focus on finding Maddox" instead of "rumours and speculation".


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