'I will forever be a broken man': Maddox Ritch's dad devastated after 6-year-old found dead days after he disappeared from park
Maddox Ritch's body was found ultimately on Thursday this week in Long Creek after a five-day search launched by authorities
The father of six-year-old autistic boy Maddox Ritch, who was found dead on Thursday, has finally spoken out on the tragic death of his son who went missing from a park in North Carolina last Saturday.
Ian Ritch, in a statement on Facebook, said that he will forever live with the guilt of not being able to save his son. "Today I found out I'm not a dad anymore. I had big plans with my son. I wanted us to go fishing, play ball, go camping. I wanted to be his hero. I wanted him to say I was more than Superman or Batman to him. I wanted people to ask him who his hero is and him say my daddy. Now I'm no hero I couldnt save him or protect him at all. I would give anything to go back and save him. While a lot of people dont believe anything I have said in the past believe this. From this moment on for the rest of my life, i will live with the guilt of not being there to save my son. The most important person in my life," Ritch said in the post.
The child's body was found on Thursday this week after a five-day search launched by authorities. Reports stated that Maddox, who had limited verbal skills, was walking with his father and another adult in the park on Saturday afternoon when he took off running. Over a dozen law enforcement agencies participated in the search for the little boy and even enlisted divers to assist in the search of a nearby lake for Maddox.
Reports stated that Maddox was found in nearly three feet of water in Long Creek, which was just a mile east of the Rankin Lake Park, Gastonia, where the child was last seen.
Gastonia fire chief Phillip Welch, in a statement, said that Maddox's body could not have been swept into the creek from the lake because of a screen placed in the discharge area, according to reports.
Maddox's mother, Carrie Ritch, had spoken to the media on Tuesday during a press conference, pleading for people to assist in finding her son as she made the statement in tears: "I just want my baby home, please. Whatever you can do. Maddox is my whole world, and my reason for living. He’s momma’s boy. I want my baby back in my arms."
Ian Ritch, in his Facebook statement, also thanked everyone who participated in the search for his son.
"I want to say thank u from the bottom of my heart to everyone who took part in searching for my sweet lil buddy," he wrote. "I truly appreciate everything everyone did to find him. And to everyone in the community that were hoping and praying and just took one second of their time to think about Maddox i thank yall too. I loved that lil boy he was my best lil buddy. Maddox was my only child and he will be the only one i will ever have. I wasnt so worried about him when all this started on sat because i expected to find him right off over time i got more and more scared and worried. Once sunday morning came thats when it starte[d] me thinking i had something to worry about," he added.
"You're a grown man. He's a little boy. How did he outrun you?" @DavidBegnaud asks the father of Maddox Ritch, the missing 6-year-old autistic boy in North Carolina.— CBS News (@CBSNews) September 26, 2018
"He can run. He can run. And I couldn't keep up with him. Not that fast." https://t.co/Cq9mPCx6Ps pic.twitter.com/AeXlDimdaH
"When everyone else gets to go back to their normal lives remember that i will never be the same man again," his statement continued. "I will now and forever be a broken man until i take my last breath. Ive never been a very spritual man before but [now] i want to be just so when i die my lil boy will be the first person i see when i get into heaven. I cant wait to see his lil smiling face again."
Ritch previously told in a report that he and his friend were walking with Maddox near the lake that afternoon when the playful boy took off running behind a jogger. It was common for Maddox to run around, so Ian allowed the boy to jog ahead for fun, he said. But when Maddox began running faster, Ian said he took off after him and wasn’t able to catch up with his son before losing sight of the boy.
Ian Ritch concluded his statement with an advise to other parents, referring to how he let Maddox run ahead of him at the park.
"Just please hug ur children tighter and please dont make my mistake and let them get too far away from u," he wrote. "Do everything u can with ur children because I won't get the chance to do anything with mine. Now to Maddox I just want to say I love u lil buddy. Please be waiting for me when my time comes because i promise I'm gonna do everything I can to be with u rooster!!!!!"
The investigation is till ongoing and the Mecklenberg County Medical Examiner’s office said that the cause of Maddox's death has not been determined yet, according to PEOPLE.